From Care Receiver to Caregiver: A Journey of Gratitude in Action

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Josef with his Overlake care team.

For over a decade, Josef Cea had regularly visited Overlake Medical Center as a medical courier, shuttling vital supplies between Eastside hospitals and clinics. But in 2021, a COVID-19 scare would see Josef returning to Overlake once more—this time not as a courier but as a patient fighting for his life.

In May 2021, Josef felt an unsettling tightness in his chest while on his usual rounds. As the day went on, breathing became increasingly difficult. Realizing the seriousness of his symptoms, he completed his delivery and headed straight to the nearest urgent care. After checking in, his symptoms rapidly worsened and his lung function deteriorated. Josef struggled to remain conscious as he was rushed to Overlake's emergency room. After spending two days in the Critical Care Unit, he awoke and received the alarming news—he had a severe case of COVID-19 that had nearly taken his life.

Grace Nguyen, RN, receives Overlake's DAISY of the Year 2022 award.
Grace Nguyen, RN, receives Overlake's DAISY of the Year 2022 award following Josef’s nomination. Grace was also recognized as DAISY of the month in 2021 for providing highly attentive, detailed and compassionate care.

Josef gradually regained his strength and started walking again. Day by day, his nurse Grace Nguyen encouraged him to walk a little further. Josef says those walks were the catalyst that changed his life: “Grace made me take a look at my inner self and start making changes for the better. I was overweight, and I had high blood pressure, pre-diabetes and sleep apnea. I knew I needed to start taking care of myself.”

After leaving the hospital, Josef remained steadfast in his commitment to wellness. He sought treatment for his sleep apnea, embraced a healthier lifestyle, and dedicated himself to daily walks. Grateful for his second chance at life, Josef was determined to pay it forward.

His first act of gratitude was to nominate Grace, the nurse he credits with saving his life, for a DAISY Award, a nationwide program celebrating extraordinary nurses. He then signed up to return to Overlake, this time as a volunteer, to help patients going through similar crises.

Today, Josef can often be found traversing the hospital campus—assisting with patient discharges or offering guidance to those navigating the facilities for the first time. His transition from care receiver to caregiver continues to unfold in new ways. He now takes pleasure in mentoring new volunteers and students, hoping to instill the same compassion that sustained him during his most vulnerable moments.

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