The hair clippers click on. The sound buzzes through Dylan’s room on the cancer unit at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“If you could hear my heart right now, oh man, here it goes! That seems like a lot of hair,” says Johns Hopkins All Children’s registered nurse Daniel Simms.
He’s about to get a haircut. A new ’do that will last him longer than his usual one to two months between barber shop visits.
Dylan and Simms bonded from the very beginning. The 14-year-old was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking off.
“When I first had him as a patient, he was pretty sick and he was getting a lot of blood products and wasn’t feeling well,” Simms says. “I’m the only male nurse he’s ever had. I think that makes it easier to bond with him.”
Within about 10 days of treatment, Dylan’s hair started falling out in clumps – a side effect of his chemotherapy treatments.
“I finally asked him, ‘When are you going to shave your head?’” Simms explains. “His hair was coming out everywhere. He had a beautiful head of long, flowing hair. He was wearing a hair net because he wanted to hold on to it as long as he can.”
Simms suggested he’d shave his head, too. He would do whatever he could to encourage Dylan to do the same.
“He was like ‘Oh really? You’ll shave your head?’” Simms says.
While Simms was off work for a few days, Dylan bravely shaved his own head. And he had a grand plan for Simms’ return.
“When I came back to work, Dylan’s mom, Kathy, said – ‘He’s ready to shave your head. He’s got the clippers ready to go.’ He was gung-ho!” Simms chuckles. “He shaved out the middle first, then hair on the outside. It looked kinda like an Ace Ventura type haircut.”
If there could be a highlight of a hospitalization, this was it.
“It was a selfless act that made Dylan's condition feel a little less daunting for a little while,” Kathy says. “It is hard to express how happy this made my son and me.”
But Dylan’s nonstop smiling throughout the entire haircut caught on camera, speaks for itself.
“I’ll pretty much do anything to get these kids to laugh or smile or forget about why they’re here!” Simms says.
And this new ’do proved just that.