Balding so soon?
When I was a senior in high school, I had another student ask me if I was balding. He was right. I couldn’t even grow in facial hair yet, but I was going bald. I recognize I am not unique in this regard, but it was emotionally very difficult for me.
By my early 20s, frontal recession was rather progressed and the crown area was heavily thinning out. I wore my hair super short for some years and thought about shaving it all off, but I wanted the “frame” to my face that hair provided. Also, I didn’t believe I had the right head shape to shave it all off. Since I had been aspiring to be a model and an actor, I had enrolled in school for this, and believed my thinning hair was a blocking point. I also felt like it was impacting my dating.
I didn’t want to accept that this was it, so in my mid 20s I started using topical Minoxidil, along with a special shampoo, scalp cleanser, fortifying conditioner, and hair revitalizing vitamins – all twice a day. This combination definitely worked. My hair began notably filling back in and the shedding seemed to stop altogether. But, after a few years, the seemingly constant attention to my hair that was required wore on me.
I believed that hair restoration surgery was the permanent cure and that I could then abandon this bothersome hair care regimen while having thick natural-looking hair, I met with a New Jersey doctor that I researched online, and who had performed hair restoration surgery on a famous professional sport player. I watched the interview of the sport player and watched a talk show interview of the doctor. In addition I watched an interview of a young father and heard about his happiness with the surgery results. After this I requested and reviewed an extensive list of referrals from the NJ doctor. The NJ doctor told me that I would need 2-3 surgeries to obtain the full look I ultimately wanted. I decided to move forward.
The NJ doctor informed me that I couldn’t use Minoxidil immediately following surgery, and that I should take Finasteride orally instead. I had researched Finasteride some before, but I was opposed to it due to potential side effects. However, I decided to comply with using Finasteride while I was having surgery, with a resolution to myself that I would disuse it once the surgeries were all over.
The surgeries utilized the strip technique. The first surgery seemed to further fill in (beyond what Minoxidil and my prior hair care regimen had accomplished) some spots that were still thin. The second and third surgeries, each roughly at the year mark, didn’t initially seem to change anything in my hair density or hairline (it was explained that the surgeries were merely keeping up pace with what I was shedding, but I question now if the transplanted hair knocked out my original surviving hair). Around surgery three I started getting periodic comments from friends, family, and on dates of: “did you dye your hair?” and “did you get a hair transplant?”
devastated and confused
I was devastated and confused about the obviousness as I was trying to get out of the hole of losing my hair but instead dug a new and deeper hole of somehow having fake-looking hair. I felt like I simply needed to stay committed to more surgery, and my NJ doctor supported this and I wanted to trust that the NJ doctor was right. When the staples came out after the fourth surgery, despite sticking to the NJ doctor’s recommended timing for healing, my head partially opened up. The NJ doctor performed emergency surgery and I was stitched back up. After this situation, I really started questioning my faith in the NJ doctor.
I finally recognized that my new hairline looked fake, because of the spaced out, darker, and thicker hairs that had been transplanted. After closely observing the stretched out fourth scar line as it tried to heal, and in so doing I also took far greater notice of the other three haphazard scar lines that were supposed to all be virtually invisible. I had wanted to believe I was doing the right thing. But, in retrospect, I was wishing I would have tried shaving my head some years ago instead of ever starting surgery. I knew there was no going back now. Shaving at this point would have exposed the obviousness of the scar lines, but my hair in the back at least still partially covered that when carefully combed and placed.
I researched other doctors, and visited what I felt must be 2 of the best hair restoration doctors in the US, based out of New York City. I separately met with both of these coalition doctors, but they refused to perform surgery. They were both fascinated with the extensive scarring in the back of my head. The one doctor called it “railroad tracks.” They explained that I should have never had 4 separate scar lines created. Each scar line should have been hidden within the previous scar line. The front hairline also utilized multiple 2, 3, and 4 follicular unit hairs placed at a very fake vertical angle. This use of multiple follicular unit hairs in my hairline by my NJ doctor specifically went against what my NJ doctor had previously told me.
After being studied and extensively photographed, but then declined for surgery by the NYC doctors, I felt like a freak. I was told to considerably increase the daily dosage of Finasteride I was still taking, and to begin reusing Minoxidil in at least the evenings. But, renewed use of Minoxidil did not bring back the original hairs in my hairline, and the scarring in the back remained unimproved. I couldn’t ever go swimming because my wet hair dramatically highlighted the scarring. And, I began to seriously question the potential of side effects from the increased dosage of Finasteride. Out of desperation, I visited one of the NYC doctors 2 additional times over the years to request surgery, but he continued to decline.
West Coast is the Best Coast
I decided to research top-rated doctors outside of the east coast and found Dr. Gabel. He too was appalled at the work that had been previously done by the NJ doctor and made extensive photographic documentation of my situation. But, he did not refuse to perform surgery. I have now had two surgeries with Dr. Gabel to help partially correct the previous damage.
I understand I had one of the worst hair restoration malpractice cases that Dr. Gabel has seen. Dr. Gabel has removed some of the scarring in the back of my head. He has also removed some of the multiple 2, 3, and 4 follicular unit hairs from my frontal hairline and placed them either further back or reutilized them to add coverage to the strip scar lines. Single follicular unit hairs have now been blended in the front at a more natural angle to soften the hairline. While more surgery is still needed with Dr. Gabel, what has already been done is leaps and bounds from where I had been. I only wish I would have started working with Dr. Gabel from the beginning. His compassion and artistry is second to none.
Pros and cons
Furthermore, Dr. Gabel helps educate you on all your options, only suggesting surgery after you have thoroughly discussed everything else. He goes through the very detailed pros and cons of each option, and you are required to read and sign documentation on this before proceeding with any plan, surgical or otherwise. Dr. Gabel is honest and straightforward about results/expectations. He will address all your questions and concerns and help you make a fully educated decision.
While I can wish the past would have played out differently, I can at least take comfort in knowing that I am now finally moving in a positive direction. Dr. Gabel is step-by-step correcting the NJ doctor’s mistakes, and in so doing, giving me a piece of my life back that I thought I had permanently lost.