For some years I was experiencing hair loss. After lots of research, I understood it is not a disease but a condition called Alopecia, which can be genetic, hereditary, and many other causes. However, after some serious research on my own, I decided to get a hair transplant. I consulted several clinics in the USA, but none of them convinced me they could do good work and on top of that the price was very high. At the beginning of the year 2022, I told myself that this year I will need to do something to fix my hair loss condition and that went on my list. Life is short and there is only one life to live. Why not give it a shot and get the hair transplant as it can be a life-changing event.
I kept on making tremendous research and spoke with many people. The r/hairtransplant channel on Reddit and several youtube channels were some of my tools to get into this risky adventure. Of course, you need to understand that there are lots of fake and scam youtube videos. I should say my perception and inner feelings lead me to move forwards with this procedure. I chose Natural Clinic for this procedure.
Why and how did I choose Natural Clinic?
Last year I consulted one of the famous hair transplant clinics in Connecticut which goes by the name “Bosley”. They told me they could get me a FUT procedure and the cost was over 5000 USD. One the same day itself, the consultant try to sell me hair products at a really expensive price. On top of that, it’s a FUT (Follicular Unit Transplantation) procedure that includes stripping off the donor skin and causing a laceration at the back of my scalp. Can you guess how stupid that might seem? When I asked about the FUE procedure, they told me that is way more expensive.
On the other side, I started discussing the FUE procedure with many clinics in Turkey, they all told me that FUT is a very old procedure and not everybody might need this. I decided to walk away from Bosley. So exit Bosley, and enter the Natural clinic. The latter asked me to make part of the payment in advance so that I can benefit from an extra voucher. Well, as an IT guy, it’s natural for me to verify the authenticity of how the payment is made and whether it is not a scammer targetting me. I verified all the data and it took me almost a year to make a silent follow-up with some of their clients to understand how they are operating. I even confronted them with really bad reviews from some of their clients that appeared on Google. Some appear to be genuine bad reviews, I guess there cannot be 100% satisfaction and definitely, there were some reviews made by fake accounts.
Prepping up before flying to Istanbul, Turkey
To be honest, I was not completely prepared. Before taking the flight, I made sure all my travel documents are ready. Although a PCR test is not required, I decided to get one, and in the event, the requirements changed along the way, I know I’m ready. Anything is possible in those covid times. Better to be fully prepared! So here is a checklist before getting a hair transplant overseas:
- Make sure passport is ready (expiration dates etc.), travel documents all printed, vaccination cards, etc.
- Some countries require visas to turkey. I had to buy one before departing. During departure, they told me that I do not require a visa, but when I arrived there, the immigration did ask me.
- Buy two donut travel pillows with you. You will need one to be able to sleep without allowing your neck to move after the surgery. Although the clinic gave me one, the quality is not that good. So one donut pillow to be used after the surgery and one on the plane.
- Bring button shirts with you. If you make the mistake like me using a button-less shirt, it would be a pain to remove it. Also sports pants so that you don’t have to remove belts etc when returning back.
- Since I went there just for 4 nights, I decided not to bring any suitcase. Just a backpack so that you don’t need to go through the process of finding and pulling a heavy suitcase after surgery which may cause you to stress your scalp.
- Since the clinic booked the hotel for me, I made sure to know which address it is and I downloaded an offline map on my phone in the event something goes wrong.
There was a lot of communication on WhatsApp with the clinic, about the date of arrival and duration in the clinic, etc. This is very important as these people have a lot of clients and it’s important to keep on reminding them and keep up to date in the event things change in your flight. They also gave me a map of where exactly the driver will wait for me.
Reaching Istanbul Turkey
I reached around 5 PM in Istanbul Turkey and the clinic booked the BH conference airport hotel for me. It was a pretty quick security check at the Istanbul airport. They asked me for my vaccination cards showing 3 vaccinations and on top of that, I have my PCR test ready. I also printed the letter from the clinic showing I have an appointment for surgery. Of course, they asked me for my VISA which I bought online.
Once security checks were over, I went to buy a SIM card. Believe me, that is very important. As soon as I landed, I try to connect on the airport wifi, but it will not work until they don’t get your phone number or email to send an SMS. But how do you receive a text message if you do not have a cellular network? I went to buy a SIM card with the cheapest internet package of 10 MB and I disabled mobile data on most of the apps so that I can have data for the rest of my days in Turkey. Do not use a different What’s App account as the clinic and your own contacts will not be able to reach you. So keep the old WhatsApp account.
As I get internet connectivity, the driver is already reaching me on WhatsApp and I followed the instruction they gave as to where to wait for them. The clinic also sent me the picture of the driver whom I should talk to. They brought me directly to the airport. I reached around 5 PM Turkish time quite late and did not really get the time to look around. In my head, my only goal is to do the hair transplant. However, I went to do a quick 15 minutes walk when I reached the hotel.
Something I definitely dislike so far is that as soon as I landed in Turkey, people smoke anywhere outside the airport, people smoke inside and outside the hotel, inside restaurants, and everywhere on the road and they smoke at any time. Every 1 minute I walked on the street of Istanbul, I saw someone smoking. When the taxi took me to the clinic, it was smelling cigarettes inside the car. When I look at other cars every 30 seconds I could see someone with a cigarette. It’s difficult to breathe because it is smelling cigarettes everywhere. Seriously, my KN95 face mask failed to filter that cigarette smell. It’s terrible. I cannot believe that there is no law in Turkey that prevent people from smoking anywhere they want. Even inside the hotel, it’s smelling of cigarettes.
I went to get some food at the hotel restaurant. I can tell you the food is really nice.
Day 1 at the clinic
I could not sleep well at night as I was jet-lagged. The time difference between USA and Turkey is horrible and I have to wake up early and be ready as the Natural clinic vehicle is already there on time waiting for me. As far as I can say, punctuality is something very important for me. If someone tells me at 08:00 Am they gonna pick me up, I am expecting them to be here at least 10 minutes before. That one thing I can tell you from the Airport and at the Hotel, they pick me up straight on time. Reaching the clinic, It’s definitely a warm welcome, and it’s pretty professional. I did the full payment and wait for some time until someone accompanied me to the surgery room.
So, during the procedure, the new hairline was drawn on my forehead to which I agreed. I did not discuss that much with them as I think the hairline they giving me looks good and I really wanted to get rid of the bald area. After that, they gave me a free 0.5 clipper haircut. That are pictures before the surgery.
Before the procedure, the doctor will get a sample of your blood for some basic health checkups like Diabetes, heart rate, hypertension, etc. They also do a basic survey of allergies or any medical issues. When the procedure starts, I have to wear a surgery gown. The doctor will then start administering local anesthesia to the back of the scalp. Believe me that hurts! Once they confirm that the scalp is completely numb, they start getting ready to perform the extraction of the follicles and at the same time, they are monitoring the blood pressure.
With the use of the FUE punching machine (Oscillating drill), they start the extraction and there is another team working on the sorting of the hair follicles as well as cleaning them. I did not get a full view of what was going on when the extraction was done. During the extraction, there was no pain at all. I got like a bandage on the back of the head. It was food time. They did ask me if I am ready for the second part of performing the implant. I was ready.
It’s another session of local anesthetic, but this time it’s in the front and top of the scalp where the donor’s hairs are implanted. I also got an IV serum fluid injected into the vein. Although I did not believe that I needed that, they gave it to me. Well, it’s something I was not worried about at all. Also got a pain killer. I was not really feeling any pain. In my head, I was only thinking that maybe later I will feel the pain, but anyway, everything went well so far.
After the second session of the local anesthetic, they start performing the implant one by one using an FUE implanter pen.
At the end of the hair transplant, they took out some blood for the PRP (Plasma Rich Platelet). The blood is put in an Emcyte spin machine which extracts the Plasma from the blood. The Plasma is then re-injected into the scalp. Once the surgery is done, I was kept on observation for some time. To be honest I felt pretty good and had no side effects at the end of the surgery. I followed all instructions they gave me like no alcohol consumption, no cigarettes, no strenuous activity, no caffeine, etc, and to rest well. I was also given some medications like pain killers, antibiotics, antiaggregant, stomach protectors, and diuretics following a bunch of instructions.
Day 1 – After surgery
It was already around 6 PM and the clinic transportation came to pick me up to go back to the hotel. As soon as I reached the hotel, I sat on a chair and questioned myself: “where did I land myself?” “Is that the right decision?” Well, if I wanted to get rid of the bald area, I had to go through the process. After a few more hours, I started feeling my head with a burning sensation. It was a feeling like literally on fire. I was told that If I feel any pain to take the pain killer. But since today, I did not take the pain killer at all. Perhaps I should have taken the pain killer when feeling that burning sensation. So I endured the burning, and also realise that my body temperature started getting higher. Immediately, I took 2 Tylenol that I brought with me. After exactly 6 hours which I remember very well when it was almost midnight: I realise I was feeling much better with no fever. I tried to get some sleep with the donut pillow I brought on the sofa chair in the hotel room.
Day 2 – At the hotel
I woke up quite early on Sunday: The breakfast at the hotel was amazing. The Buffet was full of fruits and healthy food. I also met a lot of people same like me getting the same procedure at different clinics. That day I already felt getting much better and better. I kept myself resting and tried to get some sleep as daytime in Turkey is nighttime for me in the USA. During the night, I am awake like a raccoon. The bandage at the back of my head was already full of fluid and that was pretty uncomfortable.
Day 3- Ready to go home
Monday morning, I was ready to travel home. I called the clinic as I want to go out of the hotel and was really fed up with the bandage. Reaching the clinic, I already noticed my face was swollen on both sides. The medical consultant explained to me that this is very normal and will go away over time. I got a hair wash and shampoo as well as a hair conditioner. They gave me some instructions as to how to wash my hair when I reach home. Since I got a free voucher, I took advantage of it and asked the clinic to ship me over all the hair products, medication, etc. I cannot take it along with me as I do not have a suitcase. Airport security would not allow the liquid.
I reached the airport quite early as this is very important. To be allowed entry back to the USA whether you are a citizen or not, you need to have a negative PCR test. So, I got a PCR test at the airport itself. Security at the airport of crazy when boarding to the USA. It was like more than 10 levels of security before boarding. When I reached home, my face was completely swollen. It took me at least 3-4 days for the swollen parts to go away.
I traveled back in time and it was Day3. I noticed some cracks on my scalp. I was pretty scared if something went wrong, But on careful observation, it was a healing process, and scabs started forming.
Between days 4-7, scabs already falling out especially when I was washing it with the shampoo they gave me. On Day 10, I could notice the scalp was completely cleaned from scabs.
On day 15, I notice there is still some redness on the skin. I contacted the medical consultant and they told me it’s a pretty normal process and I notice that the planted hairs are growing.
At the time I am writing this article, I am on Day 22 and I can say that during the shampoo session as instructed by the Clinic, I notice that between day 16 till today I am losing a lot of hair. I was told that 60% of the planted hair will fall down and it’s called “Shock falling”.
When I compared the number of hairs on day 15 to that of day 21, there is definitely lots of hair falling down. After some days, I will update you all on how is it going on, and let’s see if the hair transplant really works.