Dear Dr. Bernstein,
Back in 1984, I began losing my hair at age twenty. As a teen, I barely cared if my hair was combed, so this sudden vanity caught me by surprise. It quickly became difficult to discuss my hair loss with friends, doctors, natural pharmacists, even over the phone. I avoided anyone who had known me before and wasn’t all that excited about meeting anyone new. Secretly, I began responding to newspaper ads touting hair transplantation. The idea sounded simple enough, move some hair from back to front. I made my mind up about having a hair transplant even before meeting a surgeon. I desperately wanted it over with fast so (at age 20); I wouldn’t have to worry about hair loss anymore. I remember looking in the mirror and thinking that even if the procedure doesn’t come out perfect, I couldn’t look worse than I do now. The only thing I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to wear a wig. With few resources back then, I had only the salesmen and their before and after brochures. After several consultations, I chose a hair transplant clinic in Union, New Jersey, mostly because of the ample free parking behind the building. I had my first procedure, and then my second…Every six months I returned like a lamb to the slaughter
After six “transplants” and two scalp reductions with their doctor my head looked like a freak from a Halloween catalog. What did I just do to myself?! I couldn’t possibly let anyone see me now. After all that pain and financial…! Now I HAD to get a hairpiece. In June of 1990, I began to wear a “hair replacement system” to cover my sins. Constantly reminded by the itchy plugs underneath, I would attempt to scratch…and I was often afraid that the “unit” would fall off. I stopped playing softball (and most other sports), I stopped swimming in the ocean, no more water slides… I was a miserable old man at age 26.
Not much changed for the next eight years. Sometimes I would wonder what if anything had evolved in the technology of hair restoration. Once the internet, I was able to periodically keep up. Around 1997, I noticed that some surgeons were now attempting to fix older transplants. I visited one such doctor in my neighborhood. Embarrassed, I would not even remove my hat until the doctor was in the examining room. Virtually no one ever saw my head without a hairpiece. The doctor could clearly see how my badly transplanted hairs were growing backwards and the wrong direction. He tried to convince me that he could help but according to him it would be up to me to train the hair to grow in whatever direction I wanted. Now, even more confused, I actually went back to see the doctor that did the surgery to ask him, what do I do now? I figured if all his patients turned out like me, he would know where to send them for help. The doctor was basically in denial and wanted to know if I would be interested in seeing some new patient photos and hearing about his discounts. At this point I figured it was undoubtedly my destiny to look like… forever.
By 2000, I discovered a newsgroup called alt.Baldspot. I remember posting a message asking if any surgeons in New York or New Jersey specialize in transplant repairs. Someone responded with your name and phone number. I came in for a free consultation. I was somewhat surprised to meet you while you were just finishing a transplant. I met your patient and thought his head looked unbelievably good and clean for someone who just finished hours of surgery. You asked me what my goal was and I explained to you that my goal was simple; to go about life without anything covering my head except perhaps some natural looking hair. I didn’t need to look twenty something, but no more freak. You explained that most of my “donor area” had been used up by the prior procedures and that could keep me from ever reaching my goal but you said that you could help. You said that we would need to first remove the old plugs and re-transplant them. You made me realize that these old plugs are most of what is available to me now as “donor area”. You explained that each early procedure would consist of removal of as many old plugs as possible and re-transplanting as many new hairs as possible.
You went on to say that these reversal “Graft excision” procedures were essential because you would be unable to camouflage the plugs from the previous hair transplants because of their size and position. You basically left me with the impression that once enough old plugs were out, we could then do a real hair transplant and only after that would I really notice significant improvement and possibly realize my dream. You admitted that although you could help me, I was far from a perfect candidate, as so much hair had been wasted in the prior procedures. You concluded our consultation by painfully reminding me again that I certainly won’t have much density and I may run out of donor area before we finish. You would not commit to how many preliminary graft excision procedures I would need to remove all the plugs. I left your office with some mixed emotions but totally confident that you were the surgeon I was looking for. I was not totally sure if I could go through it all over again. Did I still have the patience, the discipline, the energy for recovery, the potential for disappointment? Bitter and depressed from ten years of a wig, was I in too much of a hurry again? Should I wait for hair cloning?
In May of 2001, I scheduled my first graft excision with your office. Sandy, Sejal and Bernice assisted you. You and the staff were extremely focused and kept me courageous and calm. There was really no pain other than the mild discomfort of the anesthesia. I could have easily driven home afterwards although I had a friend along. The recovery was fast, and the healing was incredible. But, obviously I needed more plugs removed. So I scheduled a second procedure. This time I drove myself home (about an hour ride) and again excellent recovery. I certainly never needed to take the prescription pain pills. In November of 2004 I had completed many more graft excisions, was I ready for my first real transplant? Two days after Election Day 2004, I drove to your Fort Lee hair transplant clinic for a scheduled appointment not knowing for sure if would be receiving a transplant or another graft excision.
You examined me in the morning and we decided that today was the day! Even with my limited donor supply you were able to painlessly extract a strip which produced about 1300 wonderful new grafts. I drove myself home no problem after the transplant. Other than the first night trying to sleep, easy recovery; certainly no prescription pain killers.
The grafts began to slowly grow over the next several weeks and months and as they began to mature, I slowly started to notice a human being in the mirror. Almost all the old plugs are gone and 10 scars are visible where the old work had been. February 3, 2005, was my son’s fifth birthday party and my day of follicular freedom! The first time my head was proudly visible in public since 1990. I actually had to go out and purchase a comb! Looking back now, its amazing how everything you said, came true – even better than expected. Fortunately, I have enough donor area left for another small procedure because there is more that we could do. There is NO more that MUST be done. No amount of thanks could ever…You have rescued me from a twenty-year recurring nightmare. This letter of thanks is the least I can offer. I am 40 years old now and this will be my first REAL spring and summer in over 20 years. I feel like I’m in my twenties right now. Water slides, I even joined a softball league. Thanks to you and your warm and wonderful staff. Even when you had visiting surgeons alongside you, I found them to be extremely professional. As for the first doctor, he is still practicing, I’m thinking of paying him a special visit. Best Regards,
Posted by Robert M. Bernstein M.D. on March 23rd, 2015 at 1:15 pm