My HT journey began, like so many others, in the distant past. I began to recede noticeably at my temples in my late 20s and more obviously so by my mid-30s. By my late 30s, I had progressed to the situation where I had an ‘island’ of hair at the front of my head and a veritable ocean of scalp around it. Think Alan Shearer (although it looked far better on him than me). I realised it had become a defining feature of my physical appearance: if I had not seen a friend for a while, I noticed their eyes drift upwards to the top of my head (and I knew what they were thinking); it occasionally became the means by which my children distinguished me from the parents of their friends (i.e. I was the “bald one”).
I had known it was coming. There has been male pattern baldness on both sides of my family, always receding from the temples. I joked about it at first, because I had been absolutely convinced I would be fine when it happened – after all, it was hardly going to take me by surprise. However, when at last it had reached the point where I was balder than I was hairier, I was surprised with the big change to my appearance and with how it made me feel. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably experienced something similar. My response was to tend to avoid being photographed and, if I was photographed, I would wince at what I saw – the gleam of scalp.
So, I tried option 1: the buzzcut, starting at #4 and then gradually down to #1. It didn’t suit me. I have a large head and, unless I’m going through one of my rare super-slim phases, I also have a round head. A real full moon job. I know that the buzzcut is a look that really suits some men (and good for them too), but it didn’t suit me. If it had suited me, if I’d have had compliments on how it looked, I’d have kept with it. But my wife and my kids didn’t like it and my colleagues teased me. I took all the teasing in good part, but obviously would have preferred to look better.
Next, I tried option 2: the meds. In my case, this was something I bought in Boots (the name of which I can no longer remember) for about six months, then Regaine (minoxidil) for about 18 months. I can’t honestly say one way or another whether it made any difference. It might have slowed the rate of shedding, but I had nothing to compare it to. (I only started taking Propecia recently.)
Eventually, I began to research HT procedures. My advice to anyone thinking of doing the same is to take your time and do your research. Then do some more research. Do not rush into anything. If you can afford it, be prepared to travel.
I first had a consultation with a clinic that is based in Cyprus, although I didn’t realise that until I went along to the meeting in London. I met a charming bloke (who had received an HT himself recently). He was not medically qualified, but he knew what he was talking about and he did an initial assessment of me. In the follow-up feedback, he recommended 2,700 to 3,000 FUs by Strip. I am indebted to him for his honesty: I asked him where he would go if money were no object, and he said “the US or Canada”. I have not named the clinic because I would not want to get him into trouble for his candour, but would be happy to tell anyone via a P.M. if they wished. I think it is a perfectly solid clinic.
I then left it for a while because, frankly, I didn’t at that stage want to travel abroad to Cyprus, the US or anywhere else for that matter. So I began to look at UK options, and then had a meeting with a representative for the Hospital Group. At this point, I did not realise the poor reputation it had. The representative was nice enough, although he understood little about hair loss because, frankly, he himself was the nearest I’ve even seen to a lycanthrope. I was put under some pressure (although eminently resistible) to pay a £500 deposit there and then. He said he thought the recommendation of 2,700+ FUs by the Cyprus clinic was “nonsense” (he asked “are they trying to make you look like me?”) and thought 1,000 would be enough. He said that I could always go back for more and that I could have upwards of 5 or 6 strips until I was satisfied. He sketched some in-fill on a picture in front of him (“a bit here, a bit there”) and then showed me some pictures of celebrities they’d apparently done: Quentin Wilson from Top Gear and Francis Rossi from Status Quo. Not exactly poster boys of cool, but there you go. It would be fair to say that I was chased afterwards to commit, but did not.
I am not in a position to criticise the Hospital Group, as I had no further dealings with them. What put me off was the way in which their representative criticised a competitor. It dawned on me that these guys were in competition for my hard earned dough. I pulled away for a while.
Eventually, I discovered the HRD forum at http://hair-restoration-info.com/eve and it made all the difference. This may sound pompous, but I mean it: this forum is like a pure democracy, a Greek city state. Everyone can speak and everyone has a voice. Reputations are built or destroyed by consensus. Results are posted and clearly show the advantages and disadvantages of surgery. From my perspective, it was just what I needed: a place where the salesmen played little part (or were clearly labelled as such) and where the real input came from those who’d had it done. And, of course, I loved the idea that Doctors themselves participated on the forum and were willing to be publicly tested by their results. Who needs shiny brochures when you have this forum?
After a while, I made the decision to contact Spex privately. The name of Dr Feller came up again and again. I liked his posts: realistic, opinionated, passionate and evidence-based. His demolition of laser-combs on the HRD forum deserves to be read by anyone who forgets that this is a science, meaning that all developments need to be empirical and peer-reviewed. So I decided: he was the Doc for me. For those of you who are still researching, all I can say is that I researched HTs for two years (I am nothing if not methodical) and chose Dr Feller. There are many good surgeons recommended on this site, but probably five to ten that are truly world-class, and Dr Feller is one of them.
Unlike some, I have not met Spex, although we have communicated by email and by phone. He has dealt with me very professionally: he didn’t push any sale, left me to make up my own mind, and sent me links to a great deal of impartial information. It was a light touch, and it was much appreciated. He recognised that what I needed was material from which I could make an informed decision. He couldn’t have been more different to the Hospital Group guy.
I had my procedure at the Feller Clinic on 17 February 2009. I shall post the photos as soon as I have them. I had 3,200 FUs. The day itself was almost pleasurable. Dr Feller has a good way with people and put me at my ease. I put my trust in him completely. We had a nice chat at the start and at the end of the day. The technicians were a nice bunch, particularly Anne, and they kept me supplied with orange juice and water. He was reassuring at several points during the day. He’s been though it himself, and that gives him a lot of additional credibility.
For those thinking of doing it, I wouldn’t describe it as painful. The injections to numb the donor and recipient areas are unpleasant and uncomfortable but, after that, you don’t feel a thing, honestly. Having my wisdom teeth removed was worse by a factor of 20! I had couple of dizzy spells, but no nausea. It was all very straightforward. I left with a full set of clear post-op instructions, took a cab back to my hotel at the end of day and slept ok after a meal.
I flew back to the UK overnight the next day. I would definitely recommend an early return home. There was no problem flying. I would not have wanted to fly a few days later when the swelling had started.
I’m happy to respond to questions. I’ll keep you informed of my progress and photos will follow. At the moment, I am delighted I did it and I am yet another fully paid-up member of the UK branch of the Dr Feller fan club. Thanks also to Spex.
Best wishes all.