So I finally got my hair transplant done by Dr. Ken Anderson in Atlanta, GA in July 2011. I'd pondering it, reading about it, researching doctors for over 4 years but only now got the courage to do it.
As always, reading/researching/talking about this stuff still doesn't completely prepare you for the details of the procedure and post-op experience.
Some background: I visited various hair transplantation facilities around the Atlanta area. They are:
1) Medical Hair Restoration (MHR) in Buckhead
2) Dr. Edmund Griffin near Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area
3) Bosley in Buckhead
4) Dr. Ken Anderson who when I consulted with him was with Emory Healthcare in Dunwoody/Sandy Springs area area
5) Spoke on the phone with Dr. Cole's staff (they are based in Alpharetta, GA)
6) NuHart near I-75/Howell Mill Rd area
7) Neograft / Follicle Transplantation Group, again in Sandy Springs area
Of the lot Bosley and MHR both seemed to have super-slick offices. But something about their atmosphere turned me off.
I didn't like Dr. Cole because I think he wanted to charge me to even have a consultation and he has (had) a pushy sales guy that I didn't like.
NuHart seemed a little like a fly-by-night operation with their sparse furnishing. And of course, no doctor I could actually meet with. Only an agent. Same for Neograft.
Dr. Griffin's facility looked great. I spent most time speaking with a consultant but toward the end Dr. Griffin came and spoke as well and looked over my hairline and pix. That's a good sign. They were a little presumptive in giving me free samples of an anti-dandruff shampoo that they said I need to use before I come in for the surgery.
Dr. Anderson I liked a lot because it was him i met all the way - he showed me around and spoke of his artistic training and how he combines that to create natural looking hairlines. He also took the pix himself and then sent me an email with his recommendation and prices for strip and FUE procedures.
I felt most comfortable with Dr. Anderson because of his non-assembly line, boutique like operation, and personal attention. And the fact that at the time he was part of Emory Healthcare. Though not sure if that means much but since I went to Emory as well, I've got a thing for that
So after much pondering, I finally went and booked an appointment with Dr. Anderson. He has now moved to the Marietta area. A bit of a drive for me but luckily a friend of mine who works in that vicinity offered to drive me there and back.
Financing - got in touch with CareCredit who gave me the necessary credit to pay for the operation so I can pay off over monthly installments with 0% interest for first 6 months.
Before the procedure I was asked to wash my hair for 7 days with anti-dandruff shampoo, avoid alcohol for 4 days before procedure, stop any herbal supplements and also purchase some prescription medication that I would need post-op. I was worried about this unexpected new stuff I would have to pay for but luckily turned about very inexpensive stuff - basically antibiotics, painkillers etc. But you do need a ride to the facility and back. Basically back home since you will be drugged and feeling a little woozy/out-of-it after the procedure. So that's something you have to plan for. Also you have to pay 20% when you book the date. I was also told to not wear a t-shirt or anything I will have to go over my head to take off or wear again. But undershirt is fine.
So with all the prep done I went to the facility on the day of the procedure. I was nervous but also kind of accepted it as something I wanted to do and so would just do it. I got there a little early. Then the staff and doc came. I went in, did some paperwork, got the remainder 80% of the payment processed. Met the doc, he gave me one of the pills I bought to swallow and then we went to the prep room Here he took more pictures himself and talked about the what to expect during the procedure. He assured me that he would do the anesthetizing, strip removal, the hairline design and graft incisions - basically all the tasks that require decision making. His two assistants would only assist him with the procedure, ie, holding a gauze, passing instruments etc and of course, creating the grafts once the strip was removed.
Then I took off my button down shirt, rippled my muscles and sat into the chair that looks very much like a dentist chair. There was a window in front of me - could some idyllic looking houses and shrubbery. Also a flat screen monitor up ahead but was told I was not going to watch anything since I would be too woozy from all the medication during the procedure, though still able to move and respond.There was some music being piped in over the speakers from the doc's ipod though.
They put a protective bib like thing around my neck. The assistants also kept their microscopes ready. Then the doc trimmed the hair from the region where they would extract the strip. The strip is not like a smiley face exactly at the back of the head. It starts from the middle of the back of the head and goes to the top of one of the ears. There are two reasons for this: 1) The hairline needs finer hair for the very front rows. That can be found only above the ear not at the back. 2) if more procedures need to be done, you have the entire other side to extract a strip from. (Now I understand Aamir Khan's Ghajini strip on his head - that's a Bollywood reference for those who don't get it. I'm Indian.).
After the hair trimming, the doc put some local anesthetic via a syringe at uniformly distributed points around the strip area. Then some valium and antibiotic pills. Then as the pills and anesthetic begin to take effect, he drew the hairline he was going to create. Then it was to the back of the head. I could feel him slicing away at flesh but of course was completely numb. I floated in and out of consciousness. When that was over, the technicians extracted grafts from that precious strip of my scalp. The doc meanwhile bandaged the hell out of the donor area. They asked me what I wanted to eat for lunch - and put some deli menu in front of me. Glutton that I am, I still ordered a big sandwich and then promptly zoned out.
Sometime later the grafts were ready and it was time to move to the front of the head. The doc had also created all the exact incisions where the hairs had to be inserted. The technicians did the actual inserting. I was of course still groggy. When they finally said it's over, and ahead of schedule that too, I couldn't believe it happened so fast. I entered the op room at around 9:30 and was out by 1:30. I was still okay enough to be able to stand on my own. I put on my shirt. The doc asked me to buy some Hydrogen Peroxide to clean the blood of my undershirt and the collar of my shirt. What??? I guess I forgot - it is still a surgical procedure! Good thing I couldn't see what was happening in the back of my head. Still blood.....
Anyway at the end of the procedure, I got a band of bandage around my head, my forehead was exposed and had read dots with little slivers of hair sticking out. Doc walked with me to the post-op room where he went over all the things I had to do. Of course, I didn't remember all of it but the printed instructions were very detailed. I took a look at myself in the nearby mirror and declared I won't step out without a cap. He gave me surgeon's cap that sits high above the scalp. I put it on and voila, ready to step out.
And that's it!
I told the doc that my friend can't pick me up at at least until 4 PM. He said no problem. I could stay and wait. Then I demanded I be given my lunch sandwich which he promptly gave me with some bottles of water. I was mostly back, gladly didn't feel any pain. I read a book that I thoughtfully brought along (Princess by Jean Sasson) and read and eat. Then my friend picked me up and we headed home. Of course, as luck would have it, my friend's car broke down on the way home (a nice Audi sedan that too) and we had to wait in the heat for close to an hour for the AAA tow truck. By that time, I had two small dots of blood blotting the front of my surgeon's cap. But nothing serious. Expected from the grafting process.
Since then I followed all the procedures meticulously, stayed home as much as possible, watched a lot of Seinfeld. Took some pix to track progress and to remind myself of how this process really is esp the face bloat and bruise - didn't expect that. Now I know what I would look like after getting my ass (lightly) kicked in a boxing match
But I'm glad I did this and thankful that it turned out alright, so far.
Attached are some pictures from the first day post-surgery.
I'll add some key learnings/surprise facts, post-op quality of service and some more pix as well shortly.