Opinions & Features December 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

Surgeon braided patient’s hair before surgery to make recovery easier, the reason we need Black doctors

Ama Nunoo December 25, 2020 at 10:00 am

December 25, 2020 at 10:00 am | Opinions & Features

Dr. Jewel Greywoode put India Marshall's hair in braids before surgery. Photo: BOTWC

A Black surgeon who is also a girl dad took his braiding skills to the operation room when he braided his patient’s hair before surgery. India Marshall went into the operating theatre with freshly washed curly tresses and woke up in braids under her bandaged hair.

Marshall’s surgery was earlier this year to take out bone growths on her skull. Prior to the surgery, it never occurred to her that her curly hair could be ‘damaged’ if left unbraided during the procedure.

Having two daughters and knowing how much Black women cherish the hair on their crowns, Dr. Jewell Greywoode, who is also Black, decided it will serve Marshall well to have braids before the procedure and did them for her. It was also to make her recovery easier.

“My head was really bandaged up when I first came out of surgery. So, it was time to clean the incisions and we took the bandages off and I was touching my hair and stuff and I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘Oh, someone braided my hair,’” Marshall told TODAY Style.

“I thought it was nice that I had the braids in a way where we could easily get to the incisions and my hair was out of the way, which was very nice because I felt really sick after surgery and in pain.”

The Charlotte native and her mother just assumed one of the nurses braided her hair. It was only during her post-operation review that she discovered that the braids were done by the surgeon himself, who specializes in cosmetic and functional facial plastic surgery at the Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“That was a complete plot twist to me,” said Marshall, who added that her doctor was beaming proudly when he admitted it was him. “You have to think about it, he took time to do that before the surgery. He could have had somebody else do it.”

The braids would also mean that he could get a clearer view to make incisions that would not harm her curly strands. According to Marshall, Greywoode chose staples over stitches so that her hair would not be cut.

“The fact that it was braided up and parted in a way where I could clearly get to all the incisions it just made my life completely easier,” Marshall said.

This is not the first time Greywoode is braiding his patient’s hair because he believes all patients want their doctors to be kind and compassionate and attend to their needs individually.

Growing up, he had some training from his sister on how to braid hair and he has been braiding his daughters’ hair during weekly wash days with his wife.

“All surgeons and doctors have personal experience they can apply and bring in to help the person in front of you actually having a good experience,” Greywoode said to abc11.

“Having two daughters with thick, curly hair like hers, I understand the importance of getting it out of the way, not just putting rubber bands in it, but doing things to help prevent knotting and tangling.”

The take home from this experience for Marshall was representation is key in all sectors because her encounter is “proof of the value of having Black doctors.”

“For me, it was an indication of somebody seeing me, and what I mean by that is seeing me as a Black woman and the things that impact me on the daily, and hair being one of them,” Marshall said. “Just to have that experience, it is priceless.” 

She shared her experience on Twitter because she felt “seen” by her doctor and according to her, Black women hardly get this kind of treatment which goes back to the point of having people that “not only look like us but can identify with us.”

This incident has made more Black people seek out Black doctors who can understand their conditions through cultural lenses. Her tweet went viral with over 71 thousand retweets and more than half a million likes.

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