Volunteer Uses Natural Talents to Enhance Patients’ Lives

Looking good makes us feel good, but treating ourselves to a haircut and style is a luxury most of us take for granted.

Volunteer Randy Salo, a hairstylist with Double Image salon, knows what a difference a simple hair cut can make to a hospice patient. “I think it makes them feel normal and just feel better about themselves,” he says. “I think it also helps the caregivers. If their loved one feels better, it helps them, too.”

In September, Randy was presented with the Pat Webb Spirit of Hosparus Award for his 25 years of providing hairstyling services for patients. Randy has cut and styled hair for over 1,000 patients over the years, and he never turned down an assignment, no matter where the patient was located.

Randy began working with Hosparus after another volunteer, Ann Chapman, came to a local hairdressers organization to recruit hairstylists. Thirteen members of that group started the Hosparus hair care program in 1990.

“I had always wanted to do some volunteer work, and I had several people tell me that hospice was a good organization,” says Randy. “It seemed like a good fit for me. So many people forget about that part of living. We’re all going to die, but nobody wants to talk about it.”

Randy adds that he likes Hosparus’ compassionate approach to end-of-life care because it allows patients to die with dignity, surrounded by family and friends. “So many times, when people are dying, we kind of shut down and that’s the time they really need other people the most.”

He has worked with many patients over the years who made an impact on him, but one in particular stands out.

“I had one patient that had ALS, and I saw him several times. That one really got to me because, inside, he was completely normal. His brain function was fine, but his body was giving out,” Randy says. “In spite of it, he had a wonderful sense of humor and would pull jokes on me. I thought that was remarkable. He impressed me as a really courageous person. No matter how bad the situation was, he still could make a joke. I know going to see him did as much for me as I ever did for him.”

Patients and families are always appreciative of his work, Randy says, but sometimes he has to convince them that he’s for real. “They all expect to have to pay, which is really funny. And a lot of them are surprised that I actually know how to cut hair,” Randy says, laughing.

Randy has made a career of cutting hair, and he doesn’t plan to stop working any time soon. He says he also plans to volunteer with Hosparus as long as he is able.

“As cliché as it sounds, I get more out of it than I put in,” he says. “It gives you an opportunity to meet people you never would have met. It’s just really rewarding.”

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