When your son has spent 6 of the last 12 months in the hospital, simple “everyday” things – like getting your hair trimmed – tend to get neglected.
That is the case for Nancy and Tom Ely, who have spent countless hours bedside with their 13-year-old son, Daniel. Daniel has autism, cerebral palsy, a degenerative seizure disorder and was recently fighting pneumonia.
“Daniel cannot speak and can no longer eat on his own,” said Nancy. “When he is discharged from the hospital, we are going to transition to comfort care. Tom is converting our attached garage into an efficiency apartment for Daniel so he can be home and comfortable.”
During stressful times like this, the small gestures can mean so much.
Enter Mark Geschke, a hospital volunteer who has been working for 2 years to bring free “salon services” to Akron Children’s patients and their parents conveniently in the hospital.
The Jody Smith Salon opened Feb. 18, and Tom and Nancy were its first clients, upon Mark’s invitation.
Michelle Lumadue, a licensed cosmetologist, gave both Tom and Nancy haircuts in a makeshift salon in the Reinberger Family Center. A plastic floor mat caught hair clippings and Michelle brought her own scissors, clippers and other tools.
When Michelle heard about the parents’ struggles, she said it only confirmed her decision that volunteering her time and skill would be worthwhile.
“I haven’t had a cut since before Christmas,” said Tom. “Daniel really hasn’t been home since Labor Day.”
Nancy, who was getting a few inches cut from her curly brunette shoulder-length hair, enjoyed the pampering and got emotional talking to Michelle and Mark about the sad journey they have been on with Daniel.
“He’s the mayor of 6100,” she said, referring to the adolescent patient floor at the hospital. “Everyone in the hospital knows and loves Daniel. He’s had a lot of serious health issues but his seizure disorder has been his demise.”
Mark presented Nancy with a small bouquet of fresh flowers to celebrate the opening of the salon, which was named in memory of a dedicated member of Akron Children’s fundraising team.
“I learned that other children’s hospitals offered on-site salon services and really wanted to bring this to Akron Children’s patient families,” said Mark.
It seemed a perfect complement to other programs from Volunteer Services, such as the Doggie Brigade and volunteers who read to patients, bake cookies bedside or push craft carts with activities for children or teens, said Vicki Parisi, director of Volunteer Services.
“Right now, we can offer haircuts and trims, nail shaping and arm and hand messages on Mondays between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.,” said Mark. “But we hope to bring more volunteer hair stylists on board and expand to 3 days a week and even bring the hair stylist to the patient rooms. A haircut can be real uplifting thing, especially for those hospitalized for a while.”
The Jody Smith Salon is sponsored by Hinckley Hair Works and One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning. Licensed hair stylists who are interested in volunteering should call 330-543-2201.