I admire those who can bald gracefully and rock a...
I admire those who can bald gracefully and rock a shaved head but I’m not one of them. I decided years ago one day I would get a hair transplant, and while I can’t change genetics I can still change my hairline. So now at age 43 with grade 5/6 hair loss I decided it was time to do something about it.
When I first started looking around online I wasn’t sure if I could justify the cost. At $12 per graft (the going rate in Australia) that’s about $10,000 for half a hairline. 5,500 grafts would set you back around $45,000 (about $33,000 U.S. dollars). For that amount I could put down a deposit for a house.
So I decided to try a cheaper solution. I took Finasteride for 6 months about 10 years ago but didn’t like the sides so I gave PRP a go and have had five sessions. It does work, or at least for me it thickened the hair, but if you’ve got a balding crown with not much hair it wont do much to help in that particular area. It’s also not permanent and the results are not as good as a hair transplant.
So that got me back thinking about a hair transplant. I had a look at prices in Thailand and India but they still required a fairly big financial commitment. Like everyone else here, I discovered real self and started browsing the reviews. I saw some people were getting 5,000 FUE grafts for $2,000-$3,000. They all seemed to be getting them done in Turkey. Dr.Tugrul Maral’s name came up time and time again – and he was getting good reviews.
I sent enquiries to about 10 clinics and surgeons in Turkey and India including Maral Klinik. The responses I got were far and varied from price per graft, number of grafts, to method of extraction. One place suggested a body hair transplant but let’s face it, who’s going to run their fingers through your hair knowing that? Dr.Tugrul Maral said he would be able to extract between 3,500–5,500 subject to donor availability for a fixed price of €2,100.
I booked my flights and sent the itinerary off to Maral Klinik. Sydney to Istanbul takes about 21 hours including a 2 hour stopover in Doha so I’ve turned it into a trip. I’m flying into Athens instead and spending 5 days in Mykonos beforehand so I will be rested before surgery. On the other hand, Mykonos isn’t for resting but at least I won’t be jet lagged.
I’m still doing PRP up until I go although Dr.Tugrul Maral did say in an email no study had proven PRP works (his website says he only endorses FDA approved treatment so I guess that makes sense). I’m having a session the day I fly out as it also has the unusual effect of putting me into a deep sleep afterwards which is perfect for a long distance flight. I take a nonblood thinning pain killer beforehand so it doesn’t hurt and it’s kind of like getting a head massage. I’m reminded of my dog when I’m scratching his ear. He cocks his head to one side making sure I scratch exactly where he wants it and that’s what I feel like doing with PRP. I don’t obviously, not with a needle in my head.
The other thing I’m doing that may assist is taking CJC-1295 and Ipamorelin. These are self-administered peptides so they are not for the faint hearted, but are completely legal and prescribed by a doctor. They boost the body’s natural production of Human Growth Hormone and are used for antiaging, injury repair, loosing weight, and building muscle. From a hair transplant perspective CJC-1295 and Ipamorelin should aid healing, reduce the risk of infection, and promote hair growth.
I’ve also purchased H2Ocean to spray onto the donor and recipient areas post surgery. I will probably continue with PRP at least in the short term in the hope it will thicken the transplanted hairs as they grow in. Dr.Tugrul Maral has also suggested Minoxidil post surgery which I will buy in Turkey as it’s a lot cheaper over there. I’ve read dermal rollers assist with the skin’s absorption of Minoxidil allowing it to penetrate more deeply and hopefully promote blood circulation to areas like the crown so I will probably accompany Minoxidil with that.
As of now it’s just under four weeks till I fly out and am getting impatient, nervous, and excited. Will keep you informed on progress and how many grafts they are able to extract. Hopefully my story may assist someone else as they consider their own hair transplant journey.
Day of surgery
Finally the day arrived, or at least I thought it had. I arrived the night before from Athens and for some reason I couldn’t sleep. By the morning I was nervous and tried to eat some breakfast. Couldn’t do it. Couldn’t stomach a Turkish breakfast. I enjoy eating different types of food normally - crocodile, emu, kangaroo, fish eyes, frogs, snails. Not today. Knowing I had to eat something I went to McDonalds. As it turned out my operation got shifted to the following day. That was fine by me as I was there for 3 days and actually wanted the first day free anyway. By the following day the nerves had gone, I happily ate the Turkish breakfast - even better was the Turkish coffee. I was totally hooked on the stuff. Then the driver picked me up and I was on my way.
When I got to the clinic there were some forms to fill out. The woman at reception was very friendly and helpful, helping me with the forms (they were in Turkish), and taking my payment. Although prices are listed in Euros they do accept other currencies including American and Australian dollars. Then it was time to meet Dr. Maral who inspects your hair and gives an indication of how many grafts he thinks you might get and a draws an initial hairline.
Then it’s through to one of the rooms for surgery. While it might seem counterproductive, you have to embrace a buzzcut for surgery - probably about a 1/2 all over. I hadn’t tried this look before and was convinced I’d look like an idiot. It’s actually not too bad especially once they’ve put hair back on top of your head. Either way I’m stuck with it for the next 3-4 months at least until the hair regrows.
Then it was time for the injections. Everyone on this forum goes on about how painful the shots are. I was lying on the operating table waiting for agonizing pain half expecting a syringe the size of a pencil to be jammed in my head. Seriously guys, the injections were nothing. I spoke to the others about it afterwards. Some hated it and complained while others said it was fine. I’ve come up with a theory, if you have a fear of needles it will hurt. If needles don’t phase you then the pain is fine. Prior to the transplant I had a number of PRP sessions. If you’ve had PRP on your head before then the injections are nothing - PRP hurts more. But I was surprised at how many they give you. I only felt the first 5 or so but they gave me around 50 all up.
After the shots they started the extractions. It’s just a matter of lying face down then face sideways for the next hour or so. They got 3,900 grafts out of my head. Fortunately I had set realistic expectations otherwise I might have been disappointed that they didn’t get more grafts. But I was told there were hardly any 1’s and that most of the grafts were 2’s and 3’s so I figured that would make up for the slightly lower numbers. Remember anything over 3,000 grafts is considered a megasession so I was happy with that. Then a final hairline was drawn on.
Then it was time for some more shots (no pain) and they started putting holes in my head. Nothing really to report here other than being told to sit still. I sat there wondering if they had enough grafts to do the crown as well and waited patiently for holes to go in there too. They did.
Lunch time next. I ordered a pizza and fanta (I wasn’t going to challenge my dietary habits at that exact moment in time, I needed to keep my blood sugar levels up and it worked). Then it was back to surgery for the longest part - putting the grafts back in.
I don’t know how these guys have the patience to do it? 3,900 grafts that have to be inserted individually back into the head. By this stage they had changed the TV from the Discovery Channel to a music channel but apparently when you tap your feet your head moves as well. I was told to lie still. Strangely enough, when they insert the grafts back in it feels like someone is yanking a hair out.
By the end of the day you are getting a bit restless. It does goes quickly but it was good to finally have it finished with the stupid diaper wrapped around my head and back to the hotel.
I spent the rest of the evening talking to a guy from South Africa who had surgery that day as well and arranged to meet up early in the morning and went sightseeing around the historical part of Istanbul. A couple of days before I got to Istanbul there had been a terrorist attack in this area. 11 people were killed by a bomb. I had friends sending text messages asking am I really still going to go through with this? The population of Istanbul is 14 million. I calculated the risk and decided it was pretty low. In fact the risk of death by terror attack in Istanbul is only marginally greater than it is here at home in Sydney. We have some serious misconceptions when it comes to the Middle East.
While I was able to put my fear of terrorism aside, the way they drive over there is nothing short of terrifying. If there are road rules I’m not sure what they are but traffic lights seem to be optional. For every lane there is always a car in it trying to prevent cars on both sides merging into their lane even though there’s no space for them to actually do so. Pedestrians seem quite accustomed to the chaos and happy to add to it jumping between spaces and dodging cars by about a bees dick.
Was picked up at the hotel at 11am and it was back to the clinic to have the bandages removed. Gee that felt good. Up until then it hadn’t hurt a bit but they spray something onto the donor area which made it feel a bit sensitive and the feeling didn’t go away for several days.
From there it was to the airport, time to go home. Caught a flight from Istanbul to Doha and onto Sydney. The clinic gives you some baby shampoo and lotion plus 3 types of medication; one for pain, another to stop swelling, and another to prevent infection to be taken with food. Once the plane took off from Doha I lined up my pills. I decided to double up on the pain killers plus I added a valium and a xanax. 6 pills all up, the hostess seemed quite concerned when she gave me my meal and asked if there was anything I needed. Just a scotch and coke I said, and was fast asleep by the time I had flown over Dubai. Didn’t wake up until about 10 hours later halfway across South Australia with just an hour and a half to go.
Pre surgery photos
These are the photos Dr. Maral took before surgery.
Post surgery photos
Photos taken by Dr. Maral once the bandages had been taken off the day after surgery.
Signs of growth!
I'm nearly at 7 weeks post op. Haven't posted anything for a while mainly because there's been nothing to report. Most of the transplanted hair has fallen out and I've been waiting for some signs of growth. Well I got that today. Who in their right mind would be looking forward to getting pimples on their head? Me, cause thats the first sign of hairs trying to push their way through.
I wont attach photos - no one really needs to see that. But at least I'm not part of the 1-2% of people whose hair transplants fail to grow. I'm pretty stoked.
3 month update
It's been a while since my last update but let me tell you not a lot happens in the first three months post op other than lots of waiting while watching nothing grow. The transplanted hair falls out and the grafts go into a resting phase. You look as bald as before the transplant, in fact a little worse because some of the existing hair falls out and goes into a resting phase too. Plus you've had your head shaved and if you've never sported a number 1 all over you never really get to see how bald you really are.
So I wasn't going to do an update until I had something to show. I broke some of the rules and clippered my hair on top once to even it all up, and got rid of the grays because the only thing worse than being really bald is being really gray and bald. Neither of which do long term damage, but can delay recovery time.
Anyway, will let the photos speak for themselves. It's nice to have a hairline again where I haven't had one for many years. It's still very much early days but the next 2-3 months should see major growth. It's just a relief to know that the transplant has actually worked and I didn't get 4000 holes put into my head for nothing.
I haven’t felt any itching on top of my head like Aussie Bee has, but some pimples and stubble has replaced the toilet brush like feeling of the transplanted hair immediately after the operation. (Sorry, but it makes me think of a toilet brush, though I can assure you haven’t ever rubbed one for comparison). Will update again in a month.
A quick update with some new shots with dry and wet hair at just over 16 weeks
18 week update
16 Oct 2016
4 months post
Just thought I'd do a quick update. As you can see the hair line is improving - as long as you look from the right angle. On top it's still patchy and - to quote an aussie bee expression - baldy. But progress. I’ve decided the hair transplant is more than just getting hair back - have joined a gym for the first time in my life and have been working out 5 days a week. Might as well feel younger and healthier too ….. an unexpected side effect.
Before and After at 12 and 19 weeks
25 Oct 2016
4 months post
I'm amazed at the difference between now (19 weeks) and when these first 2 photos were taken less than 2 months ago at 12 weeks. I didn't upload them at the time because - well as Donald Trump (and aussie bee) would say, there was nothing worth looking at and not much to grab. So not unlike Trump's tax returns, I decided not to disclose them at the time.