Nurse and volunteers offer St. Mary’s patients pampering day

Ron Dickinson, a patient at St. Mary's Hospital, has his hair cut by a volunteer.  He says it was a

Ron Dickinson, a patient at St. Mary’s Hospital, has his hair cut by a volunteer. He says it was a “great” and “unexpected” experience. (Chloë Ranaldi/CBC – photo credit)

Walking down the corridor of St. Mary’s Oncology and Palliative Care Unit, Diana Gouvopoulos asks, “More champagne?”

She comes into the patients’ rooms and offers everyone a cup of non-alcoholic champagne.

But that’s not a typical maintenance shift for Gouvopoulos.

In fact, she’s not on the clock.

Gouvopoulos used to work as a nurse at the hospital, but today – for the first time since the pandemic began – she is back at St Mary’s to tend to cancer patients with “tender loving care”.

It’s the third annual edition of TLC Day, an initiative Gouvopoulos created to pamper oncology and palliative care patients. With the help of volunteer hair stylists, manicurists, massage therapists, and makeup artists, the department’s cancer patients receive the full TLC treatment.

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

And then there’s the food.

A table is set with a spread that includes souvlaki, steaks, pizza and donuts – all donated by restaurants. There are also gift bags lined up at the front desk, each with its own light shade of wrapping paper.

“Just seeing people being alone and withdrawn in their rooms is just heartbreaking… Our goal is to banish and eliminate the loneliness and isolation,” Gouvopoulos said.

“It’s just a lot of people who volunteer one day a year to spread love and smiles,” she said.

But she insists she benefits more from the experience than the patients.

Ron Dickinson is a patient at the hospital. He is being treated for tumors in his lungs. But despite being hospitalized, he says he’s lucky to be in good hands on a normal day.

Today, however, is very special, he says.

“It was really unexpected, to be honest,” Dickinson said after getting his hair cut by a volunteer in his room.

“It was a great experience. It means the whole world.”

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Chloë Ranaldi/CBC

Lyse Dionne has been at St Mary’s for the past few months. She says the hospital stay was far from easy, but she was deeply touched by the special care of the day.

“It’s great. It’s a beautiful, unexpected experience,” she said.

And she also had her hair cut.

“It’s been so long,” she said, adding that getting her hair done was “the best gift I could get.”

Joan Morales, interim head nurse at the unit, says the TLC day is providing a much-needed break for patients.

“I think it’s especially important to make sure our oncology and palliative care patients get a special day because they’re going through a tough time,” Morales said.

“It’s a beautiful day to forget all that.”


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