Patricia Daiker’s Type 1 diabetes diagnosis was unexpected, but it didn’t take her out. Her battle with the illness has led her to work with others just like her, encouraging them to manage the disease the best way they can. Daiker will soon release a children’s book focusing on not allowing the disease define a person. When she’s able to get a moment to herself, Daiker loves to take pictures, walk, swim and spend time with her family.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I have lived in Coppell since 2005. I am married to my wonderful husband Scott, and we have two amazing kids. My son Sam is one the first CHS9 students and my daughter Sophie is in seventh grade at Coppell Middle School East. I have been a nurse for over 30 years. My bedside career was at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. I was there just shy of 15 years with practice initially in ICU, but the last 10 years were in the emergency department. In 2000 I followed a life-long love of computers and problem solving and took at job at a small start up healthcare software company. We actually survived the dot.com bubble burst and prospered. Nearly 15 years later after, climbing the corporate ladder very successfully and becoming certified in Nursing Informatics, I left the company as the vice president of product strategy. It was an amazing opportunity, but the industry has become over-regulated and it lost its luster.
What led you to work with diabetic patients?
I developed Type 1 diabetes when I was 26. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, and I likely got a virus from a patient. Even though I was a highly skilled, high acuity nurse with a deep understanding of the pathophysiology of diabetes and its treatment, I still struggled. As a nurse, I knew what I ‘should” do, but as a human it is very difficult to undo a lifetime of habits, culture and experience. Since my diagnosis, I have learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t. When people with diabetes can’t do their treatment plans perfectly, they are labeled “non-compliant.” I can say 100 percent that everyone I have met who has diabetes, does the best with what they have. But most didn’t come “pre-packaged” with the life skills necessary to make meaningful life changes. They use will power and that doesn’t often work well. I started my company last year to spread this message and work with individuals and groups.
What do you find rewarding about your work?
It is amazing to me, how quickly people can improve their acceptance of their situation and make meaningful changes in their day to day activities. Many times, some simple mindset changes and new perspective is all it takes. To see someone who had avoided checking their blood sugar or carried a lot of guilt and shame about their test results, become empowered and figure out a way to make it work for their life, on their terms, feels great! It is also heartwarming to connect with people who have been struggling, because I get how hard it is. When they find out I have diabetes too, there is an instant bond. I can almost see the tension fall out of their bodies, when they learn it isn’t their fault that their blood sugars aren’t always perfect, or that they need more than just a diet plan and a glucose meter, and that I have something new that can really help them.
What advice do you have for someone living with diabetes?
A lot! But for the sake of brevity, let’s go with “It’s about persistence, no perfection.” Our bodies are dynamic, fluid and always adjusting. Your heart rate fluctuates minute by minute based on a thousand different things. It isn’t a fixed number. Our blood sugar is no different. It is every changing. We do our best to anticipate trends, calculate doses, monitor glucose levels, eat healthy, count carbs, stay hydrated, be active and learn from our experience, but some days it doesn’t make any sense. Despite your best efforts. Give yourself grace on those days. Don’t beat yourself up. See if there is anything you can learn and then move on. Get up tomorrow and do it again.
What led you write a children's book?
My company name is Dragonfly Lights, it is rooted in symbolism. The dragonfly in many parts of the world represents transformation and inner growth. Light obviously makes things grow, helps us see better and is a metaphor for God. As it relates to diabetes, it is all about new perspectives, personal growth and lifestyle transformation. Throughout my career, I have used pictures, imagery and metaphor to educate patients, clients, staff and colleagues. The book was born as a simple way to help people understand that diabetes or any disability is not the purpose of their life. They are not their disease. Even though the book is simple in concept and has fun characters, it is full of life lessons that are useful for everyone. Many people have suggested that my platform makes sense for any chronic illness, so I don’t specifically speak about diabetes in the book. There will also be a companion coloring book for kids to further explore the lessons.
Who are some people who impacted your life?
My mom would have to be the biggest influence. When I was first diagnosed, she told me “If it isn’t a big deal to you, it won’t be a big deal to anyone else.” That wisdom has proven true time and time again. The stuff we hide out of shame or embarrassment become heavy burdens. I have never hidden my diabetes from anyone and never felt like it kept me from doing anything I wanted to do. My younger brother has really been a source of support and inspiration as I have stepped away from the corporate world to start my own company. He was in a very serious accident two years ago and was badly injured and lost his daughter. He has overcome so many challenges and through it all he stayed positive, displayed incredible tenacity and always kept true to himself. We have both experienced the frustration of the medical system and his insight has been very impactful as I have developed my programs. No matter what your health issue, we all need much more than just doctors’ orders to fully heal.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Actually, that is something I am trying to incorporate into my schedule. I have always had too many irons in the fire. I am making a lot more time to think. Quiet time to explore my thoughts and slow down. I think our modern world is over stimulating, and we need to unplug every so often.
What's your favorite movie?
I think my favorite movie is one I haven’t seen yet. I really enjoy not knowing what will happen next. But if “Grease” is on, it is a stop down. I think I know the words to every song!
How do you relax after a long day?
That’s a tricky one. Since I have a very flexible schedule, I tend to relax during the day when I am alone. Nights are clients, networking or kids’ activities. But I love photography, walking, swimming, meditation and bubble baths! My daughter and I have been on a jigsaw puzzle jaunt lately.
What would your perfect weekend look like?
I like being at home. Family dinner on Friday evening. Projects around the house on Saturday. Pool in the summer. Board games in the winter. Church on Sunday. Throw in a good book, some Netflix, blogging and visiting family and friends and I am a happy girl!