Meet the B.C. hairstylist who started cleaning a hospital when COVID-19 shut her salon down

Vancouver hairstylist turned healthcare hero
Vancouver hairstylist turned healthcare hero

When the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic broke on B.C.’s shores, most people did their level best to get as far from the virus as possible.

Kelly Schedewitz did the exact opposite.

READ MORE: Just 12 new COVID-19 cases in B.C., as number of patients in ICU falls below 10

Shchedeweiz runs a hair salon in Gastown, which was shut down by a public health order in mid-March.

The shutdown left her in need of income to keep the business afloat, along with the feeling that she could be pitching in.

B.C. health officials confirm 12 new cases of COVID-19, 3 additional deaths
B.C. health officials confirm 12 new cases of COVID-19, 3 additional deaths

“I knew that if it was serious enough to shut down the salon, I also wanted to do something to help in the fight against COVID,” she said.

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“I took a quick inventory of my skillset; I knew I don’t have a medical background. The one thing I am really good at is cleaning.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: B.C.’s top doctor recommends non-medical masks in some scenarios

Schedewitz went online and applied to Crothall Healthcare, the cleaning company contracted to St. Paul’s Hospital.

That kicked off eight weeks as an enhanced cleaner in the housekeeping department — full shifts of scrubbing and disinfecting surfaces, while decked out in personal protective equipment.

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Sarah O’neill, Crothall’s environmental services manager, described Schedewitz’ work ethic as “phenomenal.”

“To be here, to help out, to make sure patients, staff, everybody is safe — it’s been great,” said O’neill.

WorkSafeBC issues guidelines as B.C. businesses reopen
WorkSafeBC issues guidelines as B.C. businesses reopen

“They’re doing stuff that a lot of people don’t want to be doing right now.”

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Schedewitz was quick to deflect praise to the full-time team of cleaners, cooks and other men and women who work behind the scenes at St. Paul’s.

“It is an incredibly important job in the hospitals; it requires a tremendous amount of work and persistence to do. I truly believe that the hospital couldn’t run without the men and women behind the scenes,” she said.

“They do it with humility, with grace, and it’s also really rewarding. That’s the surprise — I didn’t realize how rewarding it would be.”

READ MORE: WorkSafeBC to conduct random inspections as economy reopens under COVID-19

With the lockdown lifted, Schedewitz wrapped her last day at the hospital on Thursday, where staff in the maternity ward gifted her with flowers and goodbyes.

She is now headed back to the salon, where she says she has a long waiting list of clients looking to lose their quarantine hairdos.

Those clients, she quipped, can rest assured the salon will be germ-free — thanks in part to the deep-cleaning skills she picked up at St. Paul’s.

“I was that type before, but now I’m wound even tighter. It’s great.”