For patients and their families, comfort with style

A new center at the U children’s hospital offers massages, hair cuts and other stress relievers.

Hair stylist Jeanne McCoy cuts and styles Nicole Shusters hair at the Masonic Childrens hospitals new hair salon. Nicole was happy to use the service as her three-month-old son is treated at the hospital.

Image by Easton Green

Hair stylist Jeanne McCoy cuts and styles Nicole Shuster’s hair at the Masonic Children’s hospitals new hair salon. Nicole was happy to use the service as her three-month-old son is treated at the hospital.

by Max Chao

Jeanne McCoy is part of a group of volunteers at a University of Minnesota children’s hospital that is giving patients a little style.

Since late May, McCoy has worked at the University Masonic Children Hospital’s new Blythe Brendan-Mann Foundation Wellness Center. McCoy and others regularly give young patients and their families haircuts, work on their nails and offer other styling services.

For McCoy, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2005, it has become a way to provide a service for patients and an emotional boon for her.

“I get where they’re at, I’ve been there,” she said. “It’s nice to not even feel the obligation to talk about it.”

While other hospitals around the country have salons, the Masonic Children’s Hospital stands out by combining the salon, a fitness center and a therapy center into one 700-square-foot space, said Becky Pauly, pediatric program manager for integrated health and wellbeing at the hospital.

After parents gave feedback that they wanted to be able to relax and workout while staying close to their child, the hospital decided to start providing the services, Pauly said.

Parents of patients are exposed to a high-stress environment and often neglect their own wellness while worrying for their children, she said.

“We believe that taking care of the caregivers helps them to take care of their child better,” Pauly said.

The Center’s fitness room is open 24 hours, and the integrated therapy offers acupuncture, massage and energy therapy — like the Japanese healing technique Reiki — services.

While some services are reserved for parents, patients are also able to get their hair cut and styled, have their nails painted and receive acupuncture.

“[It’s] doing something that doesn’t hurt, isn’t part of a treatment, something that’s just about feeling good,” said Lynn Gershan, medical director for pediatric health and wellbeing at the hospital.

Blythe Brenden, founder of the Blythe Brenden-Mann Foundation, a philanthropy organization focused on local organizations that support medicine, education and the arts, is the primary donor to the Center.

The Center’s starting salon products were donated by the Intelligent Nutrients salon, and exercise equipment was donated by Lifetime Fitness.

Brenden hoped the Center would use her interest in a holistic approach to medicine.

“I do this so that families that are staying long-term in the hospital…have access to places that can help them,” she said.

All stylists at the center are volunteers and all the services are paid for by the hospital.

“We don’t want [money] to be another barrier…there’s a lot of financial strain that can happen when your child is in the hospital,” Pauly said.