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Richard1

Transplant Experience with Dr. Michael Beehner

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Androgenic alopecia (a.k.a. male pattern baldness) is an affliction familiar to thousands of men all over the world. In Hair Loss & Replacement for Dummies, by William R. Rassman, M.D. and Robert M. Bernstein, M.D., they write that "Around fifty percent of men suffer from some degree of male pattern baldness by age fifty" and "Around twenty million women have significant hair loss at some point in their lives." Before we are even born, our genes determine how much hair is programmed to be lost. Unlike men, however, women rarely become completely bald.

The signs of my future loss started appearing in my teens. On one particular occasion, someone - not known for her discretion - pointed out that I had a bald spot in the back of my head. As I had never thought of looking back there, I had not known this. Naturally, I checked it out myself by placing a mirror in back of my head while looking into a mirror in front of me. Unfortunately, she was right. I couldn't say at what age I progressed to being a totally bald fellow - a so-called Norwood 7 - but I'd guess it was in my late 20's. At various times, I would complain to my mom about my affliction (bringing up the fact that my older brother had a full head of hair) she would always say, that I had plenty of company.

Obviously, this is true, but it does not change the fact that hair loss often carries with it severe psychological ramifications. Our hair, perhaps, is the single greatest physical characteristic that determines our attractiveness (actual or perceived). An overweight person can lose weight, but a person cannot grow their hair back. We have all seen people who do not have perfect features. A full, beautiful head of hair can do wonders in compensating for this, however. This feature alone, can greatly contribute to our perception of a person as "good looking." Conversely, a man with superior facial features who is totally bald can appear to be less attractive than a man with inferior features, but with a full head of hair. Studies have shown that men with a full head of hair, men who are tall and men who are thin get better jobs and make more money than men who are bald or short. We have all heard the stories of obese people going for a job interview, and being looked over from head to toe. Similarly, how much hair we have or how tall we are often dictate the preconceived perceptions others have of us in social situations. Women have been known to describe the experience as being visually violated. Men who are bald have described people's eyes immediately going up to their hairline.

Some men have been known to become totally devastated by being bald. Others don't care, or if they do, have resigned themselves to their fate. They realize that being bald in no way defines them as a man or as a person. Their intelligence, their achievements, their character, and their ability to make a difference in others' lives are far more important to them than how much hair they happen to have on their head. We often look at a bald man of high achievement and character, and the baldness can even make that person appear attractive...because we associate his appearance with all the qualities that make him what he is. But from a purely aesthetic point of view, I have never seen a man look better bald than with a full head of hair.

Even when someone is totally bald, they almost always have fringe hair around the back of their head (known as the donor area) which is not subject to balding. Often, when this is the only hair a man has left, or if he has large irregular patches of balding areas throughout his head, he will almost always look better having his head completely shaved. Many black basketball players and boxers shave their heads. Because of their darker skin, they can carry this off much better than people with lighter skin. It often adds to their menacing aura and perception of "toughness." But even these athletes would look better with a full head of hair.

Was I devastated about being bald? No. Devastation should be reserved for tragedies such as losing a limb, going blind, or losing a loved one... not for a genetic condition afflicting thousands of men. But on a scale of 1-10, with 10 representing total devastation, I'd say I was a strong 7.5. Through the years, I had heard that there was such a thing called "hair transplantation," but never gave it much thought. I assumed it was just something available to rich people. I had resigned myself to my fate, and I told myself that I'd just try to be as fit as I could, to strive to become proficient at things that were important to me, and to view my baldness as just one characteristic that made me who I am.

It was only recently that I began to think more about this thing called "hair transplantation." One day, I googled it, to see if I could get an idea as to how much something like this would cost. I looked at some doctors' websites, but could only find the price per graft. Not knowing how many grafts I would need, I still could not get an idea of the cost of a procedure. Again, I put this on the back-burner, but some months later, I decided to delve into this a little more thoroughly.

Not knowing a thing about it, or who the most reputable places or doctors to go to were, I started with Hair Club. I called for an appointment, and was assured I'd see a doctor during my visit. When I called to confirm a day before the appointment, I again asked if I'd be seeing a doctor. I was told, "No You'll be seeing a counselor." I decided to make the trip anyway, solely for purposes of getting my "feet wet," even though I had already eliminated them from contention.

I got there, spoke to a counselor, and she told me that the doctor wasn't in. If I wanted to make an appointment for another day, I could, but I'd have to leave a $500 deposit in case I didn't show up. I told her that when I made the appointment, I was told I would see a doctor. I also said that I traveled a big distance from upstate New York, and took a day off from work. She said that maybe if I went out to lunch, and came back later, she might be able to get me to see him. Returning from lunch, I did get to see the doctor. He told me I wasn't a candidate, and that anyone who told me otherwise was "telling me wrong." To further emphasize his credibility, he was a Norwood 7 himself, and told me that because he was in the business, he could have gotten a transplant for free had he been a candidate.

Now that it was determined I "wasn't a candidate," the saleslady then tried to sell me theBiomatrix system. I even got measured for one. Some months later, I happened to read about someone's experience with the Biomatix system on The Hair Transplantation Network (the most important information tool I discovered), and breathed a long sigh of relief that I didn't go through with what would have been a highly expensive disaster. It was also instrumental in that it helped me avert another potential disaster. I had made an appointment with Bosley, but after reading the many horror stories about "the world's most experienced hair transplantation expert," I ran to my phone the next morning to cancel my appointment.

After my experience with Hair Club, I e-mailed a highly regarded surgeon who wrote back that he would tend to believe the surgeon who told me I wasn't a candidate, as he had no ulterior motive. But he wrote that he'd have to examine me in person in order to second guess his opinion. In response to pictures I sent, he wrote that I could come in to discuss possible minimal coverage. Another doctor I e-mailed impressed me with his friendly and articulate response. He told me he liked the results that could be obtained with salt and pepper hair, and would have his assistant get back to me with specific information. In response to one of the things I wrote, he replied:”I absolutely agree with you”. Natural, undetectable results are the only acceptable outcome." He also said that he welcomed my thoughts. I didn't pursue this doctor, however, as he charged $175 for a consultation... a red flag. There are people who will waste a doctor's time, and are either not serious about going through with a procedure, or will not choose that doctor. But there are serious people out there, too...and if a patient does choose a particular doctor, that doctor stands to make thousands of dollars. No doctor is ever going to do surgery on everyone who sees him for a consultation. As in all sales-like situations, it's a number's game.

Dr. Beehner was one of the doctors who came up when I googled "hair transplantation." I e-mailed him some photos, and wrote that if I wasn't a candidate, to please let me know, as I lived very far from his Saratoga Springs office. He wrote back to say that I was certainly a candidate for a frontal-midscalp type of plan, which does very well, even on a Norwood 7 patient. "I would encourage you to come in and see what is possible to do with someone with your degree of hair loss," he wrote.

So I made the trip to Saratoga, and found Dr. Beehner to be a friendly, kind, and pleasant man who had received consistently excellent reviews by many of his patients. He saw me for about an hour and twenty minutes, and patiently answered all the questions I had prepared in advance. At no time was there ever any pressure to book a session. Even though I had not yet commenced the extensive "homework" in the field that I was yet to do, I e-mailed him when I got home to say that I had decided to put myself in his hands, and go through with the procedure. Another thing I liked about him was that he answered all my e-mails. I am, by nature, obsessive-compulsive, and when something is important to me, I want to know everything about it. So in addition to my transplants, I received the added benefit of free instruction in the field. On one occasion, he did chide me, however, that I had "too much time on my hands." The Hair Transplantation Network was also one of the most important resources for educating myself. The FAQ's, plus other information on many of the doctors' websites was invaluable, as well. In addition, I read the available books on the topic.

Dr. Beehner does all-FU sessions, as well as "combination" sessions (80% FU’s and 20% MFU grafts), which are more affordable. Although money is important, I feel that cost should never be the determining factor as to which session someone should choose. A person will have to live with their results for the rest of his life, and paying a few hundred dollars more is insignificant in the scheme of things. If someone can't afford to have a session which will give him the greatest possible results, he should either wait until he can afford it, or have a smaller session. He should not have a combination session just because it is cheaper. I told Dr. Beehner what I felt, and asked him which session he would recommend for me. He recommended the combination session, as he feels this works best with patients with salt and pepper hair.

There are some doctors who will only do all FU sessions, because they feel that dense-packed FU's can look as dense as MFU's (aka minigrafts). And even if they don't, some view complete naturalness and undetectability even in rain, wind, and coming out of a swimming pool superior to slightly more density, but not 100% undetectability in adverse conditions. Dr. Beehner is an advocate of strategically and artistically placed MFU's in the mid-scalp region in order to gain greater coverage. MFU's also have a higher survival rate (virtually 100% or more) than FU's do. He has written a lot about the magic of MFU's, and pointed out in one of his articles, that it is much easier for a mediocre surgeon to get into trouble with MFU's than it is if he took the all FU route. Who's right? It's one of those situations where the final outcome is ultimately the determining factor. Dr. William Parsely has said that even though he is a proponent of the all FU approach himself, Dr. Beehner gets beautiful results, and the final result is more important than how you get there.

Session number 1 was on November 2, 2007. I had 1170 FU's and 390 MFU's placed, for a total of 1560 grafts and 5,055 hairs. I found the staff to be efficient and friendly, and my procedure was a very pleasant experience. The first night however was not. From reading about other patients' experiences, it is not unusual for the first night after a procedure to be uncomfortable. But I have to take some of the blame, as I would never consider taking sleeping pills or pain medication. I was also bleeding. Suffice it to say, I got almost no sleep. During the days after the transplant, I also experienced a lot of itching. I wouldn't give in to scratching, however, as I could not risk knocking out a graft. I was willing to live with this, however, because I knew it would be temporary. The more days that go by, the more secure the grafts are inside your head. When the sutures or staples are removed, it is like "graduation" day, and you instantly feel better. The grafts by then are all securely “rooted” inside your scalp; there is no possibility of knocking them out, and therefore no danger of showering with the full force of a nozzle.

Session number 2 was eight months later, on July 16, 2008. At this session, I had 1264 FU's and 280 MFU's placed, for a total of 1544 grafts and 4082 hairs. I bled a little the first night, but unlike after the first transplant, it abated shortly thereafter.

Session 3 was ten months later, on May 27, 2009, in which I had 1275 FU's and 225 MFU's placed, for a total of 1500 grafts and 3702 hairs.

Session 4 was one year later, on June 4, 2010, in which I had 1364 FU's and 3001 hairs placed. So far, I've had 5,968 grafts and 15,840 hairs placed.

Session 5 will be my last strip surgery, in which Dr. Beehner estimates he can get about 400 grafts, and will place me in the "6000" club.

Some doctors are known for doing monster-sized mega-sessions. In fact, the ability to do mega-sessions when appropriate is one of the criteria for being accepted into "The Coalition." The idea of having one (or possibly two) marathon sessions and having it all done with is very appealing to many patients. But as with the FU and MFU debate, the size of a session is also determined by an individual doctor's comfort level, size of staff, and philosophy. This is one of the topics I brought up in my e-mails to Dr. Beehner. He believes that once you start going over about 3000 grafts, bad things can happen. He put it beautifully when he wrote that it is not about the occasional home run, but the avoidance of strikeouts which is important. He is comfortable with his approach, and feels that his results are as good as, if not better than those obtained through mega-sessions...and consistently so.

One of the hardest things about the whole process is the waiting. No two people will grow at an identical rate, and although it is said that growth usually commences after three or four months, people have been known to have started to grow earlier, as well as later. For late growers, panic sometimes sets in. We become obsessed with the mirror. I myself, have come under the spell of the rear-view mirror in the car while driving. We know that our hair isn't going to be any longer five minutes later, but we check it out again, anyway. I learned, through The Hair Transplantation Network, that I wasn't the only one who succumbed to this.

The decision on whether or not to go through with hair transplantation surgery is a personal one. Getting a transplant is not a panacea. You have to have a whole lot more going for you than just hair in order to become a successful and fulfilled person. But if it is something that can bring us closer to the image we have of ourselves, then it can be a wonderful thing. Although it can't get you a girlfriend, a wife, or a better job, the confidence it can give someone by looking better, can lead to a person feeling better about himself, and can lay the groundwork for girlfriends, wives, better jobs, and the incentive to lose weight or stop smoking...because of the new aura we are now projecting. It's kind of like the saying, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." In other words, the more prepared you are for something, the greater your chances are for attracting luck. Although I understand, especially as a Norwood 7 patient, that I can never have the head of hair I did when I was sixteen, and that much of our perceived density is illusion, I'm glad I took this journey.

My mother is one of my biggest critics. She would have been furious had she known I was spending money to have hair transplants. But she now says I look at least ten years younger, and that I look great. Coming from her, that's a compliment! If we can spend money for a good car, what's wrong with making an investment - for about the same amount of money - in ourselves?

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Richard, this is probably the best write up I've ever read! Congratulations to you finding Dr. Beehner. He does amazing work and is one of the few I've read about who does MFU's. More bang for the buck! Good luck to you on your final session!


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Avodart 0.5 mg. daily

Spironolactone 50 mg twice daily

5 mg. oral Minoxidil twice daily

Biotin 1000 mcg daily

Multi Vitamin daily

 

Damn, with all the stuff you put in your hair are you like a negative NW1? :D

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