Day 5: Shampoo & Aloe Vera

On day 5 I was advised by my clinic to start using shampoo and aloe vera to clean my scalp. It’s important to use a gentle baby shampoo, as usual shampoo would probably be too harsh.

As you can see, I stocked up on cotton buds, pads, balls and pleats, but I find the cotton buds and pads most useful.

My personal technique is to dab a small amount of baby shampoo between two cotton pads, and then gently pat the surface of the skin, while being very careful not to press too firmly or rub, especially with regard to the recipient area. I then use a spray bottle containing tepid water to rinse it off.

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After this, you can then use aloe vera to help the healing process. Using the syringe I squirt it between two pads and gently dab it onto both the recipient and donor area.

This process must be repeated morning and night until day 14, however at day 7 you may then start to rub the areas rather than just padding softly.

Tomorrow’s topic is swelling!

Day 4: Post Op Care

Post op care is extremely important. Following surgery, Dr Feriduni told me “the rest is up to you”, however I was adequately prepared with (from left to right) a bandana, neck pillow, vitamin E spray and finistil.

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It’s important to use the neck pillow for the first week following surgery. I propped myself up with several cushions.

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I was given an information pack, that contains two charts in particular which I found very useful for tracking my progress and ensuring I was sticking to the advice of my clinic.

I find it helpful to tick each day off as I progress.

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If you adhere to the instructions, you really can’t go wrong. My doctor was on hand if I needed any further help, which was pretty reassuring.

Day 3: Films & Follicles

It’s been a largely uneventful day, mostly occupied by watching films and nurturing follicles. As requested by my doctor, I emailed some high quality photos of the area where I lost a graft, and he confirmed that I had indeed lost at least 2-3 grafts, but that it should not affect the result and he would touch it up if required.

I took some photos of the area affected by the graft loss.

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Day 2: Return Home & Complications

On day 2 post op, I returned to the clinic for the final time, with all of my bags ready in order to go straight to the station. My scalp was treated by the staff once again and I had roughly 30 minutes to address any remaining questions. I was given Keratene serum and shampoo, and a memory stick containing photos.

I insisted on a photo of me with Dr Feriduni!

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If everything sounds perfect so far, a reminder that my condition was still very fragile awaited aboard the train. I removed my bandana to apply vitamin E spray and my friend noticed bleeding. Upon inspection of the bandana, a strand of hair indicated that I’d lost a graft. I sprayed the area affected with finisitil and panicked somewhat, but was able to communicate with the clinic via email, and was reassured that I’d taken the right action and should not worry if it’s just one lost graft. The threat of losing more grafts gave me the courage to spend two hours in London waiting for my connection to Newcastle, without a bandana. I was very aware of people looking at me, but could not justify losing more grafts for the occasional curious glance.

I eventually caught my train to Newcastle, and was extremely relieved to arrive home, where I intend to remain for about another week until I’m confident that the grafts are safe.

Hasselt

I was able to use a bandana, so took advantage of my first opportunity to properly explore Hasselt. The highlights for me were St. Quentin’s Cathedral, a Belgian chocolate shop and a Greek restaurant called Nostalgia, which serves delicious food in a rustic, ambient setting and seems very popular with the locals.

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Day 0: Back at the Radisson Blu

For the remainder of the day I was instructed to leave my scalp uncovered, and was therefore keen to return to my hotel room, avoiding any non-essential human contact. I was instructed to return to the clinic the following morning, and a taxi was arranged.

 

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You are provided with every product you need to look after your scalp and treat pain, even a neck pillow to aid sleeping – as you must be upright for the first 5 days.

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Day 0: Surgery

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I was taken to have my hair shaved by one of the attending medical team. The staff at the clinic are all exemplary professionals and very friendly; Dr Feriduni’s philosophy is ‘The patient is King’, and I was certainly made to feel as such. Despite having dedicated a lot of time and money to the operation and travelling to Belgium, the buzz of electric shaver felt very decisive. I realised that this was “it”. That said, I did not have a single doubt in my head that surgery was exactly what I wanted to do. I was confident, comfortable and excited. After my scalp was washed, I was then taken into the room where the operation would take place.

The first part of the procedure is the harvesting of follicular units. I was given anaesthetic shots, which were sharp in pain but quickly passed. I was then guided to lying face down in a horizontal position with my head positioned so that it was secure to limit movement. I was told I could sleep as this part of the process would take several hours, but as evidenced by the blood pressure monitor, I was quite anxious and therefore lay fully awake the whole time. Two medical assistants plucked grafts, each by my side, as the radio quietly played in the background. Post op I was informed that I bled a lot and I remember a lot of swabbing – however this is deemed a good thing, as it means blood flow is healthy.

The second part of the process is the most crucial, and Dr Feriduni assumed full control. Incisions are placed in order for the grafts to be planted. The best way to describe this experience is imagining your head is a baked potato being pricked prior to baking… although 2600+ times. That said, there is no pain whatsoever, thanks to the miracle of needles to the scalp – although swelling is the price for this and comes a few days later… An assistant stood next to my doctor, swabbing blood and counting multiples of one hundred. Prior to this stage of the operation, I was asked if I would like to watch a movie. I scrolled through countless Pixar-esque movies, finally settling on Total Recall at the very bottom of the list. I learned a few things quickly after this; first, Colin Farrell has a very good hairline; second, the violence and nudity of Total Recall is probably not the ideal ambience for an operation of the nature. I sheepishly asked for the movie to be turned off, and opted for no movie, no music – just silence. Dr Feriduni noted that my blood pressure was still high and told me he was administering more drugs that would make me feel like I’d drank a few glasses of wine. Sounded good to me.

At around incision 1400, I realised my bladder was full and despite my best efforts, would not hold out for 1200+ more incisions. I asked the doctor if I could make a toilet trip, and while it did interrupt the flow of the operation, there was simply no choice. I was escorted to the toilets, and quickly relieved myself, before washed my hands thoroughly and returning to the chair to resume and complete the incisions.

My doctor examined his work and said he thought I’d look like the actor from Titanic when my hair grows in. A medical assistant suggested I was more like Justin Timberlake; I had no argument with either!

It was then onto the third and final part of the procedure: implanting the grafts. The medical staff wheeled trolleys with sheets of my grafts all neatly laid out and soaked in a sterile solution. It a rather surreal experience seeing parts of your body all carefully laid out on trays in front of you, perhaps some sort of freakish buffet at the Masquerade Ball I had imagined earlier. The grafts had all been examined for quality and separated into I’s, II’s and III’s. I was reassured that everything had gone very well due to the softness of my skin, and that it would be beneficial to perform the last part of the operation as soon as possible. I was happy to skip lunch, and was instead given a drip, some chocolate bars and water to wash it down with. I was administered more medication and finally blanked out, sleeping soundly for about 30 mins to an hour, waking once again with a full bladder. At this point, there were two assistants either side of me were inserting grafts into my hairline. I was told that they were about 600 grafts away from being done. My bladder could not hold, so I asked if I could make another toilet trip. I was frustrated with myself, but the assistants told me that the drips had supplied a litre of water, so this was quite understandable.

The operation was soon completed and I was taken back into my private room where my friend was waiting, as well as my sandwich and some fruit. Dr Feriduini visited the room for a post op review and told me that everything had gone perfectly – that the donor area was plentiful and generous in terms of II’s and III’s, the incisions were easy, and that the grafts were high quality and not outside of the body for long. He promised that he is always honest when evaluating a procedure post-op, so I felt very happy.

Day 0: Physical Consultation

I woke very early after a restless night on Monday morning and as per pre-op instructions, ate a light meal of fruit and yoghurt at the well stocked hotel breakfast bar. The clinic have their own taxi driver who is very reliable, and picked me up at 7:50am promptly. I arrived 10 minutes later at the clinic to be greeted by Cristian, a charming young man who is very personable. Cristian guided me to my private room and provided some documents to sign and information about the day ahead. I chose my lunch, opting for a cheese sandwich, and given a painkiller and some scrubs to put on.

After a short time, I was taken to my doctor’s office. I scanned the room, taking in the books on shelves and tools associated with hair loss, which provided confidence that he was a man devoted to his craft. He struck me as a warm and caring person. He has a good sense of humour and photos of his young daughters on his computer desktop background revealed a family man, which I found endearing.

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During the consultation, we discussed medications I was taking and I made it clear that finasteride was not an option for me. Photos were taken for documentation and diagnostic purposes, which revealed very minor miniaturisation at the crown. I was already aware of this, however seeing the weak hairs in microscopic detail has given me a sense of urgency to start using minoxidil on the crown as soon as possible, rather than just at the temples. I asked Dr Feriduni about the benefits of using Acell, and he gave a mixed opinion, that it may work but the jury is still out. I decided against, but was offered it without cost and naturally I agreed. It seemed that Dr Feriduni was keen to maximise the potential of my surgery, and that if something like Acell might work, then we might as well give it a try.

Dr Feriduni asked to talk about my expectations and hopes in terms of my full result. I handed over an iPad, onto which I’d uploaded photos of famous men whose hair I admired, such as Miguel Velosa (Portugeuse footballer), as well as photos of younger versions of myself. I was then taken a mirror and, using a special ruler that helps measure dimensions and symmetry, my new hairline was drawn. The ruler wraps around your head in a manner akin to masquerade ball attendees, rather than those preparing for surgery. I was satisfied with the first hairline, so he used a surgical pen to mark it more permanently. I was then prepared for surgery!

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Before Surgery

I’ve had some requests from readers to put up some photos of my hairline before my hair transplant. I think perhaps I’ve been reluctant to do so, because it makes me feel a little vulnerable and exposed, and I’m sure many of you will relate with that. Nevertheless, here are some photos taken on my day of surgery, back on day zero – February 25th 2013.