My hair transplant procedure took about 8.5 hours. I won’t lie, this was a long day. Since I was staying in the historic district the first night, I had planned to take a taxi to my procedure on Friday morning. However, I received an email and phone call from Dr Altan saying that he would send Mustafa, the Transest driver, to pick me up between 10-10:30am. This was nice of them since it saved me from having to hire a taxi to the hospital. Thanks to a traffic jam in each direction, I arrived at the hospital around 11:30am. The clinic typically likes to get started by around 9:00am.
I met Dr Altan for about 15 minutes, signed papers, and handed over $1,900 U.S. dollars. (The cost for the procedure is actually 1,690 euros which converted to $1,904.60). I handed over $1,905 but the doctor returned the $5.00 bill and said that $1,900 was enough. I thought this was nice and fair of them. A few weeks earlier the price would have been $1,850 but the euro had gotten stronger against the dollar. It was nice being able to pay in U.S. dollars which actually saved me some money since I did not have to pay a bank to convert to euros. The clinic did not charge any conversion rate. The doctor snapped a few “before” pics of my head, then we moved to the procedure room which was the room next door. Since I would be checking into MidMar Hotel following my procedure, I had my suitcase and carry bag with me. The driver carried these to my procedure room so that all of my belongings would be close to me all day. This made me feel comfortable and secure.
The procedure consisted of several steps: Following Prep work, the 3 major steps are: 1) Extract grafts from back of head; 2) Make new channels on top of head; 3) Insert grafts into new channels. In terms of timing and procedure, I had the following experience.
Prep = Performed by surgical nurse (15 mins)
1 - Extraction = Performed by surgical nurses/technicians (3 hrs)
Lunch = (10 mins)
Prep = (5 mins)
2 - Channels = Performed by Dr Altan (1 hr)
3 - Implant grafts = Performed by surgical nurses (4 hrs)
Prep work: I sat down in a chair, and the young nurse shaved my head. In my 45 years, I have never had a fully shaved head, so it was interesting to see how I looked in the mirror. It was strange, but not too frightening. The nurse then took a vial of blood to screen for disease and also to use for PRP (Platelet-Rich Plasma) injections. I then lay down on a table for anesthesia shots. I like to think I have a fairly high pain threshold, but the shots were painful, probably a 5/10. The top of my head started to become numb. The nurse would poke with a needle and ask “pain?” If I said no, she moved to another area. If I said yes, then it was another shot to the head. In all, I counted a total of 70 anesthesia shots in this step. This is no typo.. I counted 70 needle shots to the head.
Extraction: The Extraction step was performed face down on my stomach. In all, this step took about 3 hours. Members of the team took turns using a micro motor (which is basically a Dremel tool) to cut around each graft. The tech would drill around approximately 10 follicles, then rub over them before using a tweezer to pull out each drilled plug. This process was followed until all 3,500 grafts were removed. The grafts were soaked in petri dishes filled with a solution (possibly blood) and sprayed with saline to keep them moist while the second nurse sorted the grafts by 1, 2, and 3 hair. Dr Altan later informed me that 50-60% of my grafts were 1 hair, 40-50% were 2 hair, and 1-2% were 3 hair. In total, my donor yielded: ~1,900 (1 hair), 1,550 (2 hair), and 50 (3 hair), for a total of 3,500 grafts and 5,150 hairs transplanted. Tis is a relatively small yield, especially considering that my hair is on the thin side. However, the fact that they were able to actually harvest 3,500 grafts from my donor was more than I could have imagined when the procedure began, and this makes me very happy.
As for the work rotation, the two nurses (Sumeyye and Kezban) started with the extractions, followed by the nurse with head scarf, followed by Erkan Vural. (Note on Mr Erkan: He was interchangeably called Dr Erkan and Mr Erkan, so I’m not sure if he has a PHD or something else, but I suspect he is not an MD. However, I believe he was listed as General Director on a website, and I was told that he has 8 years experience in HT). I would be thankful if somebody could learn his true credentials for the record.
Lunch: Once the extractions were completed, we broke for a 10 minute lunch which consisted of eggplant in beef, noodles, roll, and apple. I believe the lunch break would normally be longer, but I suppose we were making up time for a late start. Besides, I was so hungry by this point that I finished everything in 5 minutes. Then it was time for more anesthesia shots to the head.
Prep: After sitting on the table, the younger nurse administered a new round of anesthesia shots to the forehead. This is the area that would be receiving the grafts. Even though the number of shots was less (only 7 shots) and took just 5 minutes, I can tell you that the pain level was very much higher than it was in the initial round. Apparently the forehead contains many more nerve endings than other parts of the head. I believe it, since this round of shots registered an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale. Yes, it hurt that much. I have a fairly high tolerance for pain, but actually yelled out loud a few times. Good thing is, the shots were done fairly quickly and we were on to the channel insertion.
Channels: The channel part of the procedure was performed while sitting in a chair. This took about 1 hour. Dr Altan informed me ahead of time that the channels were the most critical part of the procedure, and that he does all of the channels himself. This held true in my case. Mr Erkan held me still while Dr Altan made the channels in my head. It was hard to see, and I had to remain perfectly still, but the doctor essentially used a tool to poke 3,500 holes from my forehead back to the crown. This part of the procedure was painless but I could hear a crunching noise with each hole that was made. I took advantage of watching the Turkish Top 20 music channel while this part of the procedure was performed. Many of the acts were American, like Katy Perry. Not sure if the Turks enjoy the American music videos or if they were catering to their audience, but it may be a combination. After all channels were cut, I believe the doctor administered the PRP injections, then it was time for the nurses to place the grafts.
Graft implant: The third and final phase of the procedure took the longest at approximately 4 hours. The two surgical nurses used tweezers to place each of the 3,500 grafts into a channel, one at a time. At times one nurse placed grafts, sometimes they switched places, and sometimes they both placed grafts with one nurse standing on each side of my head. They talked and giggled in Turkish while working, which I really didn’t mind, since they seemed to enjoy their work and this task obviously required a great deal of manual dexterity and coordination. Occasionally when a cell phone would ring, they would check it and then get back to work. Not sure if these were personal texts or work messages, but it didn’t bother me so much because the job was tedious and these little disruptions were probably healthy. By this time, I was mostly exhausted. At one point, I asked how many grafts remained to be implanted, and they said 2,000 with an ETA of 2 hrs. Ugh. This was entirely painless but it was difficult to remain still for so long, and my neck was cramping. I was thankful when they repositioned my head from time to time. I actually caught myself dozing off a few times. On one occasion, I caught myself and jolted awake which startled the nurses. We all had a laugh. Once all grafts were placed (again, about a 4 hour process), I met Dr Altan in the office room next door for post-surgery instruction.
Post Surgery: Along with post-surgery instruction, Dr Altan provided Cipro (antibiotic), Prednol (anti-inflammatory), and Majezik (pain pill). He also provided Haarex shampoo specially formulated for HT and to be used to completion. All products were free of charge and at no time did the doctor or anybody else at the clinic offer or attempt to sell me anything in addition to what I had already paid.
Funny story: So following the procedure and post-op instructions, the doctor said that Mustafa would return me to the hotel. The car was a fairly small vehicle, similar to a Mazda compact minivan. We waited a few minutes outside in the car, then the doctor appeared. I guess we were providing him a ride home, I thought. Then the two nurses who had just worked on me for 8 hours appeared. It turns out this was a carpool and we were giving everyone a ride home. How interesting. So, Mustafa drove me to the hotel with the doctor and two nurses crammed into this little 5-speed car, zipping through side streets and over bumpy roads, 8:30pm after 8.5 hours surgery. This is certainly not something you would experience in America. The young nurse shared cookies and skittles as we drove. After about 10 minutes, we made it safely to my hotel and I was free to relax and prepare for the next day.
Sleeping and Post Checkup: Night one, I had some general discomfort and a slight pressure headache, but nothing that necessitated taking the blue pain pills. My foam neck pillow came in handy as this kept the donor (back of head) off the nice hotel pillows. I would estimate sleeping about 4-5 hours total. The next morning, I woke, shaved, and had a nice breakfast in the MidMar Hotel basement where Mustafa met me at 9:30. Mustafa drove us to the Transest clinic (different from the hospital) where I met Dr Altan who addressed any questions or concerns. The assistant removed my bandage and replaced it with a black headband. I actually felt pretty good considering I was poked and prodded over 7,000 times just the night prior. My forehead was a bit swollen but nothing major. The office assistant then washed my hair while discussing proper technique. I asked about wearing a hat in public. His preference was that I not wear a hat, however, he said it would be okay if I was absolutely careful to not allow the hat to touch any of the implanted grafts. Finally, he asked that I forward an email with pictures in 10 days so he could monitor progress and concerns. I was happy to hear that he was interested in ongoing follow-up. After the 20 minute office visit, Mustafa returned me to MidMar hotel, and I was free to tour the city.