After much research & deliberation, I finally decided to take a plunge and fly from the UK to CA to undergo a hair restoration procedure better known as Follicular Unit Transplant/FUT at the MHTA clinic in Los Gatos. My choice of clinic was not only based on the practicing doctor’s proven track record, but being of African origin his expertise in curly hair restoration was what ultimately what persuaded me to take my savings pot & fly across the Atlantic for the procedure. I have been a victim of traction alopecia ever since my early teens and had always been on a lookout for a permanent cure. Having long curly hair, I was lucky enough to be able to camouflage my edges and bald spots while trying all sorts of potions and lotions none of which made a real difference.I had had enough of wasting extra time each day to make sure my bold spots were undetectable and passing up on anything that could potentially give my game away - HT seemed to provide the perfect solution for me.
During my research, I came across Dr Diep at the MHTA clinic whose results on black african hair was one of the best I had come across in a long time. I scheduled a consultation via Skype and the doctor’s competence in his subject was evident within the first few minutes of the call. His availability for the procedure was also reassuring testimony of his popularity - his next available opening was 4 months after the call. Given the substantial commitment both financial and physical not to mention the logistics involved of flying overseas for a procedure, 4 months allowed the right amount of time (at least for me) to get myself organised. A deposit of $1000 was required to secure the booking and Dr Diep offered to pay $500 towards my travel expenses which I thought was a nice gesture.The clinic also sent all the required pre-op info including total bill and consent forms to be reviewed and signed prior to the procedure.
I flew in to SFO airport 2 days before the procedure to avoid any potential travel issues and also to allow sufficient settling in and preparation time. I booked a hotel 10 minutes away from the clinic and was finally ready for my surgery which was scheduled at the Los Gatos clinic at 6.30am.
On the day of surgery, I was given all the standard paperwork which required provision of consent, including A cell and approval to provide the doctor the go ahead to transplant more grafts than initially agreed if required which at the time was a no brainer to me. The doctor then addressed my questions and expectations and provided the pre-op meds and made a sketch of my new hairline. I was then taken to the procedure room where his assistants were waiting to get the ball rolling. By the time they started shaving my recipient area the meds had started to kick in and I could not feel a thing. He proceeded to extract the strip of required follicles from the donor area while his assistants were getting the harvested follicles ready to be transplanted in the recipient area. After the sutures were in place in the donor area he was off while two technicians were inserting the grafts on either side of my head. I had a quick break for lunch and snacks in between while the doctor made intermittent visits to make sure everything was moving according to plan. The procedure was over by about 5pm, a bandage was then put around my head, not to be taken off until the following day, I was given all the post op instructions, meds and accessories and asked to return the next day to get my donor area cleansed.
The next morning I noticed my forehead had started to swell up and I had red marks below my eyes. Since I was heading back to the clinic for my first wash, I thought I would address my concerns there and thought nothing of it. At the clinic, my donor area was washed and I was advised not to cleanse my recipient area for the next few days to avoid any graft dislodgment. As I was due to fly back the following morning, I asked whether the doctor was going to carry out a final post op check, but was told he was busy with patients the whole day. When asking about the face swelling I was told this was normal and that cold compresses should help settle the swelling.
As the day went by the swelling had gone from bad to worse and no amount of ice seemed to make any difference. By evening I was totally unrecognisable, my face was bloated beyond recognition and I had a nice pair of swollen black eyes to go with it - I looked liked i had been double hit by a lorry. As I was due to fly back the next day, I contacted the doctor’s personal number to get some advise and also to ask fort an airport clearance letter in case the airline insisted for a doctor’s fit to fly authorisation. I received no response and left a message.
The next day I called the clinic and expressed my concerns, the receptionist went to consult with the doctor and said the swelling should subside within 3-5 days and I should provide the airline with the existing paperwork on my procedure if prompted for clearance. I insisted a further letter from the doctor would be required after which one was emailed to me just in the nick of time. As anticipated that was the first question asked at the airport check in desk and was relived to have asked for this in advance.
I am now 10 days post op and although my swelling has subsided i still have some residual red marks in and under my eye. In terms of the actual procedure, although my recipient area is now at the scabbing stage, my donor area hasn’t healed as well. I noticed a few pimples, some with a greenish appearance around the suture line and a couple of these are still very painful to touch. I contacted MHTA clinic for some advise and was told to keep taking antibiotics and pain relief prescription for the pain. I am also scheduled to remove the sutures tomorrow as the tension and tightness around the area is not helping the situation.
Overall, in terms of the service provided by MHTA, in my experience, the pre-op service far outweighed the post-op follow-up, at least the one provided during my time there. The lack of post op check-up/debrief with the doctor is somewhat concerning. Having said that, I am very happy with my new hairline so far and will do my best to ensure the infected donor area will heal with no impact on the scarring. The clinic has also been very prompt in addressing my donor area concerns since my return.
Regarding the procedure itself, I have read and watched a number of reviews who claim FUT is a minor surgical procedure where patients are able to go back to work as soon as the next day post op. I believe this is largely dependent on the area covered and session frequency. In my case, a megasession involving 4000 + grafts, a downtime of 8 days was the minimum required to return to typical daily activities.
To end, despite the above mentioned hurdles, I still feel happy to have undergone the procedure and believe it was the right decision for me. Nonetheless, only time will tell if the results match the physical and financial investment made on this. In the meanwhile, I will keep you updated on any progress as regularly as possible.
Last edited by bettermeuk on June 22, 2015