Friends shave heads in solidarity with roommate

David La Vaque

Ambria Thomas swears this began as a joke, an extreme measure for getting through a difficult situation.

A former player for the University women’s hockey team, Thomas lived with friend Kim Martin and teammates Shannon Kennedy and Erica Killewald in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood last year.

Last Sunday, the trio learned Killewald, 21, was diagnosed with a brain tumor and would have surgery in Detroit within a matter of days.

“Every emotion besides happiness went through our heads,” Thomas said. “It was a circle of sadness, fear and hope over and over again.”

Jolted by the news and unable to speak directly with Killewald, Thomas blurted out her idea to show support for her ailing friend.

“I said, ‘The heck with it, let’s shave our heads,'” Thomas said. “Everyone else said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it,’ so I said, ‘OK.'”

And on Tuesday night, the clippers came out, the hair came off and the healing began.

The roommates took four rolls of pictures, which will be put in a scrapbook and sent to Killewald. The pictures show the women with their full heads of hair, document the actual shaving process and include shots of the backs of their heads – allowing Killewald to guess who is who.

The freshly shaven trio are a touching mix of comedy and compassion, transposed Samsons who draw strength from a lack of hair.

“Doing this makes us smile,” Thomas said. “Whatever little part of this we can go through with her – we’ll do it. Hopefully Killer will feel like she’s not the only one going through all this.”

Killewald underwent a successful six-hour surgery Wednesday in a Detroit hospital and was then transferred to the intensive care unit.

Further results, including information on whether the tumor is malignant, will be forthcoming.

A team of doctors will confer in the coming days to evaluate test results and decide further courses of action.

In the meantime, Kennedy and Martin will send their hair – in Killewald’s name – to Locks of Love, a not-for-profit organization providing hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children under the age of 18 with medical hair loss.

The women are also warming hearts locally.

“When we tell people why we did it, everybody’s reaction is, ‘That’s wonderful, it really shows you care,'” Thomas said. “We’re hoping Killer feels the same way.”

Added Kennedy, “We’re dying to talk to Killer. But you have to ask yourself if it’s going to help her in the long run. We can do other things to show our support.”

The roommates are moving into the next phase of temporary baldness, buying a dozen bandannas in a variety of colors – “The black one will go with my dress,” Thomas joked – reminding one another about wearing sunscreen and relishing a quicker trip through the shower every morning.

But what about the reaction of friends, family, co-workers and the stares by the general public?

Martin, whose blonde hair used to fall to the middle of her back and now sits in a freezer bag, looks at her preserved ponytail and shrugs.

“It’s just hair,” Martin said. “We want to show Killer we’re backing her up and we love her.”

David La Vaque is the sports editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]