My Hair Transplant Story: 3,848 Hair Grafts Later and I Now Have a Full Head of Hair
Suffering from hair loss has been really hard for me. I vividly remember the day I noticed the corners of my hairline starting to recede. I really couldn't believe that I was losing my hair. My father is 71 years old and has a full head of hair with hardly any grays. I never imagined that I would lose my hair because my dad didn't. It was not even a thought in my mind that it was possible I would be genetically predisposed to losing my hair. There was just no way I could have male pattern baldness with how thick my hair was as a youth.
My hair remained pretty dense until my final year of college, when I started noticing I was beginning to thin. Once I was able to get past the denial stage that I was balding, I began treating seeking out treatment for my hair loss. I started taking finasteride (brand name Propecia) and using minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) every day. Both treatments worked well for a while, but I had lost a lot of hair before deciding to go on the treatments. Each time I looked in the mirror, I hoped I would have new hair sprouting from my head, but that never happened. I dealt with it for years and after doing a lot of research, decided that there were surgical treatment options available that could help me with my hair loss.
I spent a good two years learning all about the hair restoration techniques available and the pros and cons of each one. The two popular hair transplant surgery techniques that are unitized are FUT, or follicular unit transplantation, and FUE, or follicular unit extraction. FUT procedures are more commonly referred to as the strip technique, where a strip of donor hair is removed from the back of your head, dissected and transplanted to the top of your head. FUE procedures extract individual hair follicles, rather than excising a large strip of donor hair. The main argument I read was that FUT resulted in a large linear scar which was difficult to cover up. If your transplant failed, you would be left with a long, ugly and very visible scar in the back of your head. Others argued that if your FUE hair transplantation failed, you would be left with small circular scars on the back of your head, almost as if you were shot with a BB gun.
I spent almost a year trying to figure out which transplant technique would be best for me. I read, and watched, many arguments on both sides. I remember watching a video on Youtube by a hair transplant doctor who claimed that FUT delivered superior results and that the FUE hair transplant machine industry had marketed FUT as a procedure that would always leave you with a horrible scar. He claimed that when the FUT is performed by a good surgeon, who had a good suturing technique, the linear scar created by the FUT method is barely visible. He also said that if you were left with an ugly scar from a bad FUT excision, he could cover it up with hair extracted using the FUE technique. When he said that, I noticed he avoided answering the question of 'what happens if your hair transplant fails and you're left with an ugly scar?' You can't transplant hairs in a scar when you're completely bald, unless you want to go with the George Costanza look. I'm in my 30s and that was not a look I ever wanted. On the flip side, my hair was very thin and arguments were made that FUT provided a denser look than a FUE transplant. I had to think long and hard about what I wanted.
I eventually weighed the pros and cons of each technique and came to the conclusion that I wanted the FUE transplant. It seemed like a better, more modern option, and I had watched videos of many patients who received amazing results with it. I did not want the back of my head sliced open and I always had tight skin, so I wasn't sure if I had the skin elasticity for a FUT procedure.
Picking a Doctor
Picking a doctor was the next hurdle I had to jump over. I live in Los Angeles, so it's not like I didn't have plenty of options. I had followed Dr. William Rassman's BaldingBlog.com for a while and he was one of the doctors I had considered. The other place in the running was the LA Hair Clinic. I had watched a lot of videos on Youtube of the LA Hair Clinic and loved the way they documented their patient's journeys and really took a liking to one of the surgeons in the videos. Or at least I thought he was a surgeon, I later learned he was a physician assistant (PA), but his hair transplant results were really good and I liked his demeanor.
I met with Both Dr. Rassman and Jacques Abrahamian (the PA) of the LA Hair Clinic and decided to go with Jacques. I felt most comfortable with him and was confident he'd do a wonderful job with my hair restoration surgery. The LA Hair Clinic also had a huge number of 5 star hair transplant reviews online. Dr. Rassman did not have as many.
I opted for the shaved donor and recipient transplant. The cost of the surgery is less when your head is shaved, compared with them doing the surgery while you have hair. They consider doing a hair transplant while leaving your a 'VIP transplant.' I'm not a wealthy man, so I had went with the poor man's technique.
Surgery day is very long. Or at least it was very long for a person like me who was very high up on the Norwood Scale. I was at the LA Hair clinic almost the entire day. The time goes by pretty quickly though - you'll eat lunch there, watch a few moves and then you'll go home.
Preparing the Donor Region
The first step of my hair transplant procedure was to shave my head. Jacques needed to see what he was working with, which according to him, was a 'good donor region.' It was probably the first complimented I had received about my hair since I was a child!
Then my donor region had to be divided in to equal square boxes by drawing on the back of my each. This was so each region was harvested equally and it prevent my donor region from looking denser in certain areas and more sparse in other areas. I didn't want to have hair on the top of my head and then look bald in the back of my head! My hair had to look nice and symmetrical.
My head was then wiped down with a disinfectant solution and it was pretty cold! Or at least it felt really cold on my completely shaved head. It was no big deal though.
Then came the numbing part, which was the worst part of the entire procedure. It's the only time you feel some pain. Jacques used a vibration technique, which distracted my nerves from feeling the small 'Botox' needle he used to inject the anesthetic. On a scale of 1-10, I would say it was a 4-5. It was a tad bit painful, but was done very quickly and it was over before the pain really set in.
Extracting Follicular Units From Donor Region
Once I was nice and numb, I had to shift over and lie on my stomach. They used this device that looked like a dental drill to harvest my hair follicles. My hair grafts were extracted follicular unit-by-follicular unit. This is what made my procedure a FUE. I did not feel the the follicular units being extracted. I was so numb I think my scalp could have been ripped off and I would not have noticed.
Preparing the Follicular Units
Once my follicular units were harvested, the medical staff in the office began preparing them to be transplants. During this process, the number of follicular units with 1, 2 and 3+ hairs are separated and counted. This is because follicular units with one hair allow you to have a good hairline, while units with more hairs add density behind your hairline.
(I should note I had a delicious steak for lunch at this point in my surgery)
Preparing the Recipient Area
The analysis of my grafts came back and I had 3,848 that were usable. I had plenty of follicular units with 3 or more hairs, which made me happy, because I knew this would give me a nice amount of density. Using this information, Jacques took measurements of my face to figure out where my hairline should be placed. He measured my chin to brow and brow to forehead to figure out my facial proportions. He said my face should be divided evenly into thirds. He told me if my hairline was too high, attention would be drawn to my forehead. If my hairline was too low, then attention would be drawn to my chin. If my hairline was placed perfectly, then attention would go to my eyes and cheekbones. They say your eyes are windows to your soul, so I guess that's what people want to look at. I also have light eyes and consider them to be one of the better features on my face.
Because I had a lot of single hair follicular units, Jacques told me he could give my hairline a nice soft transition. He also said my hairline should not be perfectly symmetrical or flat. He drew on where he thought my hairline would work best and handed me a mirror and asked me to tell him which side of the hairline he drew on me looked best. I told him my left side and then he made the right side match the left. He also drew on options of how far down I wanted my hairline to go. With the ideal hairline drawn on, I had to be numbed again. My head felt heavy and numb as the nerve block set in. Then what looked like a needle with a blade on it was used to make the incisions in my recipient area that the hair follicles would be transplanted into.
Implanting Donor Hairs Into My Recipient Region
"Phase 2" - the point where those hairs that were harvested all morning are finally ready to fill in your bald spots.
My recipient area which was oozing blood from all of the incisions that were made was cleaned off and sterilized thoroughly with a spray solution. I didn't mind the blood though, because I was so excited to be moments away from having the ability to grow hair! I experienced no pain at all during this process.
Two technicians began methodically placing the follicular units of hair on my head. It took hours to get them all transplanted and I watched a movie during this time. This part was not painful either.
The final part of my long day at the LA hair clinic was me getting a glimpse at my hairline. Jacques handed me a mirror and I was almost in tears. My whole head looked like war zone of blood and white dots, but I knew to expect this from all the photos I had looked at and video I had watched. I knew this mess on my head would eventually turn into hair. I was elated! I had hope that I was finally going to have a nice hairline and not be 'the bald guy' anymore.
Before I left for the day, I was given an aftercare home package that had everything in it to make sure my grafts were kept clean without experiencing any pain.
I took a week off from work to recover. The only pain I experienced was when I raised my eyebrows and it scrunched my forehead skin. This was due to the swelling in my forehead and head causing my skin to become more rigid. Otherwise, I did not have any pain whatsoever. The swelling improved as each day passed by.
I had a little bit of blood on my pillow for the first few nights post op, but had a special cover, which helped. I also had to be careful not to do anything that caused more blood to flow to my scalp. This included leaning forward or doing exercises. Increasing my blood pressure may have caused some of my grafts to pop out of my head, and I was careful to avoid this from happening.
Washing my hair took much longer than usual, as I had to be very careful not to disrupt the grafts. Sleeping was also a bit more difficult, because I had to make sure the pillow did not rub against my grafts. Sleeping on my ear with my head hanging off the pillow helped with this. I would recommend buying a V shaped pillow for this.
It took about 9 days for 90% of my scabs to fall off and about 2 weeks before my head looked normal. That was pretty much all there was to my recovery.
2 weeks of minor inconvience was so worth it to have a full head of hair. I would have this procedure done again in an instant.
Looking Back on My Surgery
Jacques, Flora and everyone at LA Hair Clinic was amazing during and after my surgery. Making the decision to have a hair transplant was the right choice. It has transformed my life so positively that I can't say enough kind words or thank them the way they should be thanked for how they've changed my life. Having hair has really been such a blessing. If you're going through the struggle of losing your hair, you should know that there are treatments that work.