Like many who suffer hair loss I have spent a long time looking for answers and I want to share my story of the winding and never ending road that FUE has led me down and the Pandora’s Box I opened in the search of a magical solution. Take from it what you will; my only hope is that something in it serves some use to someone somewhere.
About 3 and a half years ago my hair loss became more noticeable to me and other people than it had been before. I suppose because of the way I used to wear my hair all long at the back and messy (almost like Sylvester Stallone in Rambo) it had been OK to get away with it but as the hair loss progressed, it was getting harder to style this way. At the time I was on a break from my career which I had taken to spend some time with my fiancée whom I had recently proposed to. The hair loss didn’t bother me that much because my personality had always been quite confident and cheeky and it had worked for me and I was ok with the idea of a clean shaven look in the future even though there was the risk of it not suiting the industry I was in. It did however make me unhappy knowing that all my fiancée wanted was a picture perfect day and wanted me to try and maintain my hair for or at least until our wedding day.
One night we had both gone to an industry event when I noticed someone who had been on the thinner side had suddenly developed a great head of hair. The Mrs managed to find out it was from FUE and through her research, found a company in Athens that seemed to tick all the boxes. Their website was impressive, even more impressive was the fact that they gave me an email data base of past patients to contact. The way in which they sold it to me was that it was no big deal; it was no different to going to the dentist, just in and out without too much fuss. Not really considering it to be cosmetic surgery I decided to jump straight in and go for it thinking it will be really main stream and practically the norm one day… about a year before we planned to get married!
I had a good doctor who took out minimal grafts and I was shocked at how non surgical the whole procedure seemed. I came back home after a week and then spent months indoors making up excuses about being too busy with work to be able to go out. All I was doing was sitting in the house waiting for the hairs to grow, looking in to a mirror every chance I could and just driving myself crazy. I did get decent results and started to feel some relief but then I began to lose again in another area so decided to go back and speak to this company. They of course turned around and said it was no problem and that I had an amazing donor site (beware of this line as it seems a lot of doctors do this) so I should definitely have some more done. Except for my personality during those months of captivation, I thought about how easy the procedure had seemed and knowing that my fiancée was due to travel for work for a couple of months, I snuck off to have another one done. The reason I chose not to tell her this time was I figured I could handle it all a lot better than the first time and so didn’t want to cause her any anxiety.
Except this time they completely messed everything up. I was given a surgeon who was far more interested in making her Botox appointment than she was on my procedure and ironically she had taken out more hairs than both my 1st and 3rd doctors combined in HALF THE TIME that either one of them spent on me! My results were rubbish with only a 50% yield at the most which still gave me a chance to cover more thinning areas but I had now started experiencing severe irritations in my donor area which still hasn’t fully gone away to this day. I had at this point started acting stranger than ever. I would be my old jokey, cheeky cocky self when I was at home but the minute there was any reason to have to leave the house I would completely seize up and become ridiculously conscious. Even though I could style my hair enough to look decent I would go out and be obsessed with keeping an eye on it. My mood would switch and I would be short tempered and completely panicked. My fiancée was beginning to regularly accuse me of having a split personality. Everyone kept saying I was acting weird but they didn’t know and couldn’t understand why.
By this point the problems were bad in my relationship but I just couldn’t explain even to my fiancée how badly all of this had been affecting me. She thought we were having a break from our relationship when in fact all I was trying to do is go into hiding after my second procedure. I’m not going to go into this too much as its not really going to help anyone but lets just say I was beginning to destroy everything good in my life and I didn’t know how to help myself. I wanted her to somehow miraculously figure out what I had done or notice something seeing as she was the one who wanted it in the first place but of course why would she have. If I am honest we did both go into this naively thinking it was the next big thing but in my heart of hearts I had only really done it because I knew how she imagined our wedding day to be and I was beginning to resent her for it all. Anyway a few other things happened and things were said and done which couldn’t be taken back and the relationship eventually fell apart.
This time I really did want and need to go away. The Athens Company had offered me a free corrective procedure so I did some research and managed to get the best doctor they had and booked myself in for the 3rd procedure in two and a half years. I had planned to go away for 3 weeks but this surgeon insisted he wanted me to shave my entire head which I had never done before (but would now always recommend as it does ensure better results). He was definitely one of their best doctors, he took his time and was ethical in that he spoke to me and was honest about what I should expect. I can’t really fault him but I knew I was done with the company itself because of the experiences I had previously and their attitude to this procedure being some sort of mass production. They are fortunate to have this doctor on their staff but besides him, that company is by far no where near even decent compared to what is out there. Because I had shaved my hair, I knew there was no way I could go back and get back to reality. So I made up a make believe itinerary and told everyone I was off travelling for the next few months. I locked myself in the house only going out in the middle of the night for food and spent my time researching all these destinations I was lying about visiting just so I could sound like I had been there. I read so much and told people so much I actually at times started to believe I had been away on holiday.
At this point my hair was looking very patchy and quite crap so I wasn’t really expecting the best results. I did get good results though but the hair loss continued. Something doctors don’t warn you about when you sign up for HT’s is how necessary Propecia is. I had always been dead against taking Propecia for reasons I don’t want to go into but it in the end I felt I had no choice but to try it and it did perk me up for a bit and I have to say made the overall results look even better which only made me think how different my life might have been had I gone on it earlier. Anyway I only intend to continue taking it for another couple of years at least until I can get my life back. It can never be a long term thing for me because lets face it no one really knows the damage it can do.
The last doctor had also made me realise that this was going to be a never ending journey for me and so I decided to spend the time researching for the future which is how I found about all the other doctors out there and these forums. The forums were great in that they made me realise just how many people out there suffer similar problems with hair loss and I spoke to some great people through these forums who helped me with advice and guidance. Before then I used to think the company I previously used were the best because they had advertised themselves to use a technique far different and far superior to FUE when really it was the same and they were a joke. I also spoke to and looked into all the recommended docs like cole, feller etc and the forums were great for researching these docs but as useful as the forums are they can drive you equally crazy. For example there wasn’t much info regarding Dr Woods who I have decided to go with, yet one of the people I spoke to about my hair loss was another HT doc who only had good things to say about woods which I guess confused me because that was the last thing I would expect from another doctor.
I did think feller had good results and there was enough information on him but for me personally I just never felt in my gut he was the right doctor for me. Maybe this isn’t a good enough reason in your opinions but something never added up for me and sometimes you just have to go with your instincts. My heart always seemed to be with Dr Woods. Something about the fact that he pioneered the technique, that he does limited number of grafts a day and the fact that he does it all himself seemed very commendable to me. I feel that extracting and implanting have EQUAL importance and carry equal risk so I like the fact that he does it all himself instead of saying one part is less risky and can be dealt with by someone else. I also spoke to him at great length and he came across as very paternal which I found re-assuring.
I am not going to deny that I am worried by the lack of available results of his recent work but I am just hoping that it is a case of him being so good that his patients simply move on with their lives after their procedures and don’t feel the need to come back to reminders of the darker times. Other people have also criticised his work and some of the images used to display results but to be honest I found that if you apply some logic, that it is obvious from patient history or size of the procedure that those results are actually good or the best they could have been. When I saw the work that had been done on Franklin, I was blown away. My thinning is also very odd with some areas being good and some patches being bad which makes it very complicated and so I am hoping to god that woods can do the same magic on me as he did on Franklin. As far as I am concerned, only one hell of an expert can deal with diffused thinning well and I do not see how someone with twenty plus years can get this wrong especially when they were already getting it right all those years go.
The other criticisms on these forums of Woods are that he is expensive or almost greedy. Again if you rationalise this, it doesn’t really stand true. There are companies like DHI and HTC who run massive production line operations and if it was about the money then Woods could have done the same. Results would have been mediocre but he would still be raking in the money. Other doctors in the same price bracket as woods probably do 2 or 3 patients a day depending on the individual cases. Also I sometimes read the reactions to Woods’ prices and wonder if people have understood currency differences. You can pay 10 American dollars and that is acceptable but if you convert 15 Australian dollars and get 12 American dollars a graft (today’s exchange rate) then that is unreasonable? For a weency bit more you have the assurance that you are the only patient and he is the only doctor, I personally am OK with that.
I went to see Dr Armani recently and he told me that he only works with a minimum of 2500 – 3000 grafts and that I don’t have to worry about my donor area because realistically there will soon be something else like stem cell research success which will find a new way of dealing with hair loss. I am no scientist but does anyone know for sure that the next big thing is only a few years away? Is ‘its only a matter of time’ enough of a reason to ensure you look above average for now? I want to know that my doctor is willing to stop at 500 grafts for my own good even if it means less money for him.
At the end of the day I have lost far more then I could ever gain by going down this road to begin with. I always thought this was a miracle cure that only the rich people in my industry knew off and I jumped at the chance without thinking it through. What I should have done is just shaved my head and created a new image for myself. I am quite fortunate to have made some money so early on in my life but what about other people who have to wait a few years before they can save up and go for their next procedure and in doing so sacrifice money which would otherwise be for their children’s education or a holiday with their partner etc? This is one hell of a messed up industry which, despite working in a shallow and fickle industry myself, I am never going to fully understand.
I digress … anyway I am sitting here with a couple of days to go before my trip down under begins. Because I have become so addicted to these forums and because I am feeling nervous and antsy, I thought I would write this all up as a therapeutic exercise. I will be in oz for 2-3 weeks where I know I will be too nervous to enjoy myself in case I do any damage to my new work. I am then off to a far far away place to once again lay low for many months as I conjure up make believe adventures to feed my family and friends with.
In my many months of reading other people’s stories and posts, I have found there to be a great deal of useful information which I only wish I had known about to start with. However my one criticism would be that there seems to be a great deal of politics and affiliations on these forums which have confused me. The forums have in some way actually made me more nervous about my next procedure than I had ever been about my previous ones. So I have decided that now my background is on display in words, going forward I will tell my story through photo updates. After all a picture is worth a 1000 words and look at how much space all these thousand of words have taken up! Everyone has different opinions and theories and I don’t want to spend time debating things. Hopefully my results will be good and speak volumes and this way I can come on once a month and post some pics for everyone to make up their own minds. There are enough experienced people on these forums to answer any general questions that newbies may have and I have noticed that woods is also active on this forum, so maybe he will be willing to answer any more specific questions. I don’t particularly want to continue to torture myself on these forums anymore. This time I want to spend my time reflecting on my life and planning for a hopeful comeback in 2010 and imagine life after hair.
I am at a good stage now and I am going to try and be grateful that I did end of up with 2 at least decent doctors accidentally despite using such a shockingly money minded and uncaring company , but my hair is still not manageable. I will only be having a small procedure done from Woods (500 -800 grafts but he will know better when he sees me in person). I am hoping this will be enough to correct the situation making it easier to live with my hair on a day to day basis so that I can begin to turn my life around and make it up to all those people I have hurt or ignored. My family all think I am too busy for them and don’t care enough to make time for them and I need to change all this before it’s too late and I ruin yet another thing in my life. So I hope that I have made the right decision and that this next step in my life will bring with it a change of fortunes for me. Wish me luck!