Monday, August 1, 2005
Help (for hair loss) is on the way
Local doctor aids man who suffered
through 16 years of painful hair loss
was a day of new beginnings for 44-year-old Michael of
Aiken, South Carolina.
After living, for the past
16 years, with a condition that made him embarrassed to
leave his home without something covering his head, the
husband and father of a teenage daughter is finally ready to
rip the hat off of his head and let his hair down.
Michael, who chooses not to
use his last name, underwent a six-hour microscopically
prepared follicular unit hair transplantation Friday.
Performed at the Boca Raton office of Dr. Glenn Charles, the
procedure started just after 9:30 a.m. and finished around
4:30 p.m., with a break for lunch in the afternoon.
This procedure comes 16
years after Michael received an old style graft, or hair
"I first started noticing my
hair loss sometime during the end of college when I was
about 20 or 21, in that age range. Over the next three or
four years it really started to become something extremely
obvious and that is when I started looking to do something
about it," said Michael.
"Back then there wasn't a
lot of info except for the TV ads and I thought that was the
route to go. That was the worst thing that I ever did in my
life. So I always wore a hat or that sort of thing to hide
it. Over the years you learn how to hide it."
Michael spent the next 10
years looking for any kind of information that could help
him, but everyone he went to for advice shot him down,
telling him that he would be wasting his time and money.
That was until three months ago when he stumbled upon a Web
site run by Patrick Hennessey.
Hennessey, 41, started
experiencing hair loss at 25. After having a successful
transplant by Dr. Ron Shapiro of Minnesota, one of the top
hair transplant surgeons in the world, Hennessey decided
that he wanted to chronicle his experiences with hair loss
on a personal Web page because he found that not a whole lot
of information was out there on the subject.
"It was a simple site that
told my story. People came across my site and thought it was
cool because it was a real patient telling a story. They
asked me how I found my doctor and how they could find one
near them, so I started helping them by visiting doctors and
doctors' offices," said Hennessey, of Hollywood, Florida.
Seven years later, that
simple Web site has grown into something larger than he ever
expected; www.hairlosslearningcenter.org, of which he is
president, has become something of a worldwide beacon of
hope for all those plagued by hair loss.
"We make it easy for the
doctors to find the great patients and for the patients to
find the great doctors. We are very picky about who we take
in. Only one out of five doctors are accepted. We have 25
physicians now worldwide," he said.
"Our mission as a group is
to help patients find the best treatments, learn about them
and find the best hair restoration physicians in the world."
Hennessey said the Web site,
which has been going strong for the last four to five years,
has helped thousands of people trying to find a solution to
their hair loss.
One of the main perks for
visitors to the Web site is that every month there is a
national contest in which a person who suffers from hair
loss can submit their story on the forum in hopes that they
will be chosen to win a free hair transplant. Not only was
Michael recently voted the people's choice to receive the
free hair transplant, but he was also selected by Hennessey
and doctors from the Coalition of Independent Hair
Restoration Physicians, including Charles.
"We wanted to hear the other
people's input, but we doctors determined whether or not he
was a good candidate. He just seemed like he was so
appreciative and that his life was so difficult over the
last 15 years, so I picked him. I could have picked easier
cases, patients who have never had work done, but his case
was so compelling. This was definitely a more difficult way
for me to go, but I felt that he really deserved it," said
In Michael's case, hair
transplant surgery would have cost him anywhere from $8,000
to $10,000, but Charles waived the fee. From his prior
surgery 16 years earlier, Michael had large amounts of
scarring and his old hair plugs still remained in his scalp.
Michael's hair was as bad as
it gets, according to Charles.
"The problem with the old
work is that they would have five to 15 hair plugs up front
and then row after row of the same amount so it looked like
cornrows. It might have looked good while they were still
young, but as the person got older and lost more of their
hair, the plugs were standing out by themselves and they
were unacceptable," said Charles.
"I actually had to remove
[Michael's plugs] and reuse them. We put [them] back in
somewhere else. It was a lot of work; a big, big case."
For Michael, Charles put
single hair follicles up front, with two hairs behind it,
and three and four hairs behind that.
"The hairline is the make or
break of a transplant," said Charles.
Friday's surgery started
with a local anesthesia given to Michael's scalp, as well as
an oral sedative to help relax him. A donor area strip on
the back of his head that runs from ear to ear was removed.
It was then cut into slivers, which were then cut into tiny
grafts with one, two, or three hairs in them.
Michael was given a HairMax
LaserComb from Lexington International, LLC, which was
donated to Charles to provide to Michael. The $645 comb
helps to promote healthier hair, a healthier scalp and
Charles sees between 20 to
30 consultations a month, and treats females and males for
hair loss in their eyebrows, eyelashes, beard area, all
over, but mainly the head and face.
As for Michael, it'll be
another four to five months before he starts to see results.
To him this is the only major downfall of the surgery.
"Right now all it looks like
is there's a rash on my head. I have yet to see any
swelling," said Michael. "I'm icing my forehead constantly,
15 minutes of every hour. Now I just need to get the sutures
"My case was challenging
because not only did I have the old stuff that he had to
deal with, but also because the donor hair in the back of my
head was pretty limited. He got as much as he could possibly
They did a really nice job.
done now. I have nothing to do but wait."