From the economic slowdown to school interruptions, the nonmedical “side-effects" of the coronavirus pandemic are well-documented, but when we feel those effects personally, even the small losses are magnified.
That was the case for Margaret, a patient of the Congestive Heart Failure (CHF) Clinic at Floyd Medical Center. Margaret lives in a nursing home, but comes to the CHF Clinic twice a week to help her manage her disease.
Margaret is systematic. She likes things in order. She likes for her hair to be in place and for her clothes to look nice. So, when the pandemic limited nursing home residents' access to hair stylists and barbers, Margaret's already fragile world was shaken.
Each time she came to the CHF Clinic, Margaret talked about her hair. It was too long, she said. She needed a haircut, she told her nurse. The nursing home needed to let her beautician come back.
“They still won't let our girl come in and cut my hair," she told her medical assistant, Devon Thornton, one day, lamenting that she hadn't had a haircut since February.
Recognizing how important hair is to Margaret, Devon told her patient that she'd bring scissors from home one day and cut her hair for her. Margaret didn't forget, and she reminded Devon of her offer at her next appointment. Devon followed through, bringing a pair of haircutting scissors and a comb from home. She had them ready for Margaret at her next clinic appointment.
That day, Devon dressed Margaret in a PPE gown, placed her in a treatment bay away from other patients and cut her hair, her first in seven months. Margaret was all smiles.
When Emily Costolnick, nurse manager for the clinic, came in, Margaret called her over. She was absolutely thrilled to receive a haircut, Emily said. When the van driver who transports Margaret to and from her appointments noticed Margaret's new cut and a new attitude to go with it, he joked that he had thought he had taken her to the CHF Clinic rather than a salon. Margaret beamed, and told him that Devon had cut her hair.
Devon didn't have to cut Margaret's hair. She didn't have to bring her own supplies from home. She didn't have to take time out of her already busy day to cut and style a patient's hair, but she did, because it was important to her patient. Another CHF patient noticed Devon's kindness, telling Emily that giving Margaret a haircut was the best thing she could have done for her.
Getting a haircut is one of those things we take for granted, Emily said. People may think that if you are in a nursing home where you don't interact with people very much, that hair doesn't matter anymore, but that's not the case, she said. Getting that haircut made Margaret feel better about herself and helped her to see that others listen to her and care about her.
Devon's act of kindness made a difference, Emily said, because for this patient, hair matters.