Couple hide their own pain as they bring smiles to children at Tacoma hospital


Posted on October 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM
Updated Saturday, Oct 9 at 5:47 PM

For 30 years, Pat and Karen Daly made people cringe. As government investigators and auditors, they weren't popular.

"In my professional life no one ever wanted to see me," said Karen.

They retired a few years ago. Then they discovered their passion - making children at Mary Bridge Hospital smile.

"It's just a joy for me to watch their smiling faces... to bring a little happiness to their lives," said Pat.

The Dalys now live for a laugh from kids like 11-year-old Emilee. Emilee knows only their clown names, "Paddy and Frannie." They help her forget her pain.

"I like when they visit. They're really funny. When you're sad, they lighten you up," she said.

But Karen Daly has a secret. The clown paint helps hide her own pain.

"I have idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. I was diagnosed eight years ago," she said.

"She has terminal lung disease," said Pat.

"There is no treatment for this disease," said Karen.

In truth, Karen is sicker than most of the patients she visits.

"When you can't breathe, you get a lot of anxiety, and so it's difficult but I've been living with it, and I guess I'll die with it," she said.

She never lets the kids see.

"Some of them are so over the top with joy at seeing us," she said.

The magic is contagious. The Dalys forget about Karen's diagnosis.

"It takes the focus off you and puts it on someone else," said Pat. "It does something for you too, for your spirits."

"It's joy," said Karen. "It's not about us, it's about them, the kids."

For the Dalys, goofing around is more than a hobby.

"I look at it as a ministry, the Lord's call for all of us," said Pat.

Helping others helps Karen, too.

"Today, really, you could look at it as being a miracle because I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it really," she said.

A day of cheering up others takes its toll on Karen's body, but not her spirit.

"It's really an amazing feeling," said Pat. "She's physically tired out, but mentally fired up for the next several days."

Pat and Karen don't know how many days they'll have left together.

"I have strong faith, and I'm not afraid to die," said Karen.

She'll leave behind a legacy of happiness, and miles of smiles.

A lung transplant could possibly extend Karen's life. Even though she's a firm believer in organ donation, she has chosen not to have a transplant.

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