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.

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.