‘Mystery Diagnosis’ features Eagle woman | VailDaily.com

‘Mystery Diagnosis’ features Eagle woman

Derek Franz
Eagle, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily

EAGLE, Colorado –Discovery Health channel’s “Mystery Diagnosis” will feature Eagle resident Diane Dike on Monday. Watch for the show at 10 p.m. ET/PT (viewers should check their local listings).

“Mystery Diagnosis” chronicles the experiences of patients who suffer from conditions outside of mainstream medicine. Each episode features individuals who are initially misdiagnosed or undiagnosed altogether due to the uncommon nature of their symptoms and general lack of awareness regarding their conditions.

This popular series – now in its eighth season on Discovery Health – profiles the strength and courage of patients and determined medical practitioners as they struggle to make sense of baffling conditions.

Dike, 43, suffers from cryoglobulineamia, a rare blood disorder in which blood becomes jelly-like when her body temperature drops below 98.6 degrees. There is presently no cure for this disease. Dike must regularly take anti-inflammatory medicine, keep her extremities warm and avoid stress on her body.

“I always feel like I’m run down, sick, exhausted,” she said, citing problems she’s had with her organs as a result of her blood condition. “My body is working hard. … I’m thankful for every second I have to live.”

Discovery Health producers found out about her by word of mouth and contacted her about a year ago. At that point, Dike had been living with her disease for 20 years.

In the fall of 1990, Dike felt that her life had never been better. She was married to her high school sweetheart and working in her dream job as a teacher. One day, she noticed two red bumps on her right foot, coupled with a strange sensation. After initially dismissing the bumps as a spider bite, Dike awakened the next morning to excruciating pain with her foot completely red and swollen twice its normal size.

Dike rushed to the emergency room, where she was told her puzzling symptoms were the result of a simple bruise from unknowingly hitting her foot. The doctor told her to stay off of her foot and to take anti-inflammatory pills, which helped at first. A few days later, Dike’s legs were covered in red spots.

As visits to her family doctor and multiple specialists failed to yield answers, Dike’s symptoms persisted and her legs turned completely black six months after her initial symptoms. Terrified, Dike went back to the emergency room. After five days in the hospital the symptoms faded and she was discharged.

Over the next few months, Dike also made the difficult decision to separate from her husband as her flare ups got worse and more frequent. In a last-ditch attempt to find a diagnosis, Dike’s doctor sent her to the University of South Florida to seek help, where she was finally diagnosed.

Today, Dike has a Ph.D. in human services and counseling and psychology. She is married to Paul Dike and gives speeches at all kinds of venues nationwide in support of her nonprofit organization, Second Chance with Saving Grace. She has lived in Eagle County since 1997.

Ironically, the colder, mountainous area has been better for her condition than her previous residence – Winter Haven, Fla. In Florida, every store, restaurant and building had the air conditioning cranked up so high that it was a problem for her.

“Walking around in ski gear in Florida doesn’t work so well,” she said.

When she moved to Vail, people told her she “might as well sign her death certificate.”

“I told them I’d rather die living than die dying,” she said.

Both Paul and Diane said they were amazed at how thorough, skillful and dedicated the Discovery Health staff was while working with them. On top of all the interviews, they were also flown back to Florida for filming, which Paul said was stretched over the course of three days, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

“We spent hours on the phone and five hours taping,” Diane said. “They were very thorough and factual but also sensitive. The producer, Andy Becker, and I developed a friendship. Going back through my medical file, there were lots of tearful conversations with Andy. He was fabulous.”

Paul said he was impressed by the attention to detail and time spent to produce a segment that will be 23 minutes long. Still, Diane’s story was almost dropped from the program because several friends and family involved with her past refused to be interviewed.

“They pushed through major obstacles. I was impressed,” Paul said.

On Monday night, Diane said she’s planning to watch her segment on “Mystery Diagnosis” with loved ones in Eagle Ranch.

“This disease has taken so much of her life,” Paul said. “I kind of look at this ‘Mystery Diagnosis’ as a way for Diane to get something back.”

Katie Grant, Discovery Health’s senior publicist, said “Mystery Diagnosis” has helped other people find answers about their medical conditions.

“That’s definitely one of the most remarkable things about ‘Mystery Diagnosis,'” she said. “We look at our viewer mail and see cases where it helped people work with their doctors.”

After being homeless and suicidal at one point in her life, Diane said things began to turn around for her after embracing a Christian faith.

“I had a moment when the cabinet was empty and a gospel song came on the radio [about taking the Lord’s hand]. So I took His hand and have been walking with Him ever since,” she said.

Since then, she has started her charity with Paul using their savings. She stays busy addressing audiences in Wal-Marts, children’s hospitals and even prisons.

She also has a book out, titled, “God made only one of me,” and also raises money for her nonprofit by occasionally selling small crosses made of sticks Paul finds for her in the woods. Basically, her mission is to help people seize the beauty of life.

“My dream is to do what I can to help others,” she said.

Paul, 46, said his life has changed for the better since he met Diane at a Broncos Super Bowl party in 1997 (when John Elway nabbed his first Super Bowl victory).

“We’re convinced Diane was put on this earth for a reason,” he said. “I met the right woman at the right time and I’m a better man for marrying her.”

A month after the party, on Valentine’s Day, Paul proposed to Diane kind of by mistake.

“It was unplanned,” he said. “It was the first time I felt a higher power take control. I was a conduit.”

He said they were browsing at a jewelry store in Denver when it happened. They were married less than four months later and he went from living out of his truck, carefree, to a nice home with much bigger things to worry about.

“You couldn’t get people who are more different,” Paul said with a laugh. “Diane wants to save the world and I don’t care. Although I’ve changed. It’s hard not to when you’re married to Diane. … Physically, she’s weak, but emotionally and spiritually, she’s a giant.”

One day, Diane met an Italian greyhound at the animal hospital in Vail. With several injuries and medical problems, everyone had given up the dog for dead, but not Diane.

“It’s not in my personality to give up. I felt Gracie was an answer to a prayer,” she said. “I rescued her and she rescued me right back.”

The eight-pound canine is now literally attached to Diane as her service dog, even after people said there was no way to train an Italian greyhound. First, Gracie helps keep Diane’s body temp stable with her own body heat.

“She is trained to stay on my person,” Diane said.

Second, Gracie helps with retrieval and also alerts Diane about impending flare-ups.

“Gracie can warn Diane up to an hour before a flare-up,” Paul said. “She has allowed Diane to participate in life more safely.”

“She’s the best medicine,” she said.

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