Volunteers making a world of difference

Fulfilling role helping cancer patients

Article by THe Wangaratta Chronicle on Wednesday 15 MAY 2019

A hairdresser with a career spanning over 40 years, Wangaratta resident Anne Coutts has been able to put her skills to use for several years as a volunteer in Northeast Health Wangaratta’s (NHW) Oncology Unit.

Anne first became involved as a volunteer at NHW around eight years ago, when a friend asked her if she would be interested in volunteering there. She did the training required and from there, was assigned to be a volunteer in the oncology unit, where she has worked ever since. “It just felt right,” she said of her assignment.

Her volunteer shifts at the hospital are many and varied, ranging from making patients comfortable with pillows and blankets, to running small errands for patients and nurses alike, to providing morn-ing or afternoon tea for patients, or even just as simple as having a chat with someone who wants a sympathetic ear.

But a big part of her volunteer role is looking after the large library of wigs that are kept at the unit for patients who experience hair loss as part of their treatment. As well as maintenance, Anne uses her hairdressing experience to help people choose the right wig (or other headwear) for them to wear while undergoing treatment.

Anne said that doing something as simple as finding the right wig for a patient makes a large positive impact, and she affectionately refers to the library of wigs at the unit as her “girls”. “There’s a real correlation between looking good and feeling better,” Anne said. “They feel more comfortable venturing out. “When everything in their life has changed, this is something that can make them feel relatively normal. “Women can be quite frightened about the physical changes (of cancer), but leave feeling as though they’re going to be OK. “It’s been good to be able to use my skills.
“It’s a privilege to be able to make a small difference to someone who’s going through really tough stuff,” Anne said that over the years, she has grown close with the oncology unit staff, as well as forming bonds with the people she meets while volunteering.

“I love going in there, it’s not a sad place,” Anne said. The staff are very special. “You know that what you do helps, whether it’s for patients or staff.
“It’s extremely rewarding.”

Anyone wishing to find out more about volunteering at NHW can call (03) 5722 5297 from Monday -Thursday, or email volunteers@ nhw.org.au.

Wig TLC: Northeast Health Wangaratta volunteer Anne Coutts with “the girls”, as she affectionately refers to the library of wigs at the hospital’s oncology unit.
Photo by Kylie Wilson: Wig TLC, Northeast Health Wangaratta volunteer Anne Coutts with “the girls”, as she affectionately refers to the library of wigs at the hospital’s oncology unit.