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Schneider assistant donates her hair for patients

Three pediatric cancer patients at Schneider Children’s Hospital got the chance to become stylists last week after they helped a physician’s assistant at the hospital donate her highlighted blonde locks to their peers.

“I’ve had enough of ponytails every day and I thought it’d be really fun for the kids and for me,” said Schneider physician’s assistant Alyssa Quinlan, an Astoria resident. “These guys go through a lot and they deserve some fun.”

Quinlan, whose blonde hair went past her shoulders, said she always wanted to donate her hair to be made into wigs for pediatric cancer patients, but was rebuffed earlier by an organization that does not accept highlighted hair.

But after searching the Internet, Quinlan said she found a group — Children with Hair Loss — that would accept her locks.

Quinlan said some similar organizations are concerned that the highlighted hair would fall apart and ruin a wig.

She said stopping the highlight treatment so she could donate would have been a lengthy process, taking years for her to get back to her current length at her natural color.

Dr. Arnold Klein, executive director at Schneider, said such donations “make a huge difference in the care of the life of people who are grappling with disease.”

“It makes them feel normal,” Klein said. “When you’re a child, it’s your birthright to not think about illness. There is a certain optimism and immortality that comes with being a child.”

Schneider patients Lexie Falabella, 8; Nathalia Samaniego, 10; and Danielle Sudmann, 12, each cut off three sections of ponytails from Quinlan’s hair.

“It felt good. I feel very happy,” Lexie said.

Lauren Juzwin, a brain tumor social worker at Schneider, says wigs for children with cancer who have lost their hair gives them a boost of self-confidence.

“When a child is diagnosed, that’s the first question they ask: ‘Am I going to lose my hairi’” she said. “It’s the one visible thing you can see that a child is going through cancer, and they want to blend in as much as they can.”

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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