Here's the story of part two of my hair transplant repair with Dr Paul Shapiro of Shapiro Medical Group.
I flew from my local UK airport, which is Leeds and Bradford, my flights were generously payed for by Spencer Kobren(Thanyou).
For other potential UK patients the airline i chose was KLM/DELTA AIRLINES, both because they were the cheapest and also because i used them last time and liked the little tv gizmos they have incorporated into their headrests.
The flight was a one stop flight which connected in Amsterdam, i was dreading customs there and had visions of them asking silly questions.
However the customs at Amsterdam were more interested in looking for things unto wards with their scanning booths, rather than asking questions about why you were going to the states in the first place, so it was over in seconds and nothing at all to worry about.
Once on the plane you have to fill in a little green visa waiver slip, similar to the online ESTA application you have to make prior to visiting the US.(so make sure you take a pen).
The flights went very quickly and i enjoyed the choice of movies and slept for a while too, even the on flight meal was nice (choice of pasta or chicken).
When you arrive in Minnesota you have to go through border control which is also a breeze, they just look at your filled in green slip, take finger prints, and ask a few questions about your visit...no pressure or embarrassing questions which is a piece of cake, and is only for their security.
I stayed in the hotel La Quinta 5151 American Blvd West, Bloomington, MN 55437.
(click the picture to visit their site)
to which there is a free shuttle from the airport, this runs 24hrs on the hour which is handy(Be careful you get on the right one though as there are 2 hotel La Quintas in Bloomington).
The driver was a great guy, although he thought he was a bit of a comedian and told the poorest jokes known to man lol.
Once i arrived at the hotel i was blown away at the sheer size of the thing, as last time i stopped at the Country Inn and Suites, which in itself is a beautiful hotel with great facilities, but imo not as good as La Quinta.
The hotel shuttle is also willing to take you to the clinic, but on a nice day i would advise a nice stroll over as its only a 4min walk if that from SMG. The hotel is also situated very close to an arrray of food establishments and a nice sports bar called Majors.
The room was very comfortable and had all the amenities you would expect from a good hotel, it was extremely clean and the staff were very friendly, polite and didn't ask any questions at all regarding ht's.
The hotel also had a nice breakfast area that was open at reasonable times and served a great breakfast, it also had a wifi, a fitness suite and swimming pool...not that i used them as i'm exercise phobic lol.
Another great feature of the hotel was that the room service was all delivered and served by a local pizza takeaway firm called American Pie, which was both very tasty, efficient and reasonably priced.
The tv in the room was large and had a great choice of channels and the bed was very comfortable.I had a coffee machine, a fridge and microwave. The room was impeccable ,and had plenty of vending machines on most floors with snacks and cold beverages.
The day before my surgery i got the free shuttle up to SMG (which to be honest was a little lazy as its only a few minute walk) where i met Janna again.
I remember thinking she hadn't changed at all and was still as friendly and charming as the last time i met. We had a chat then took some photos of my hair in her office, which included some of my donor closure.
She then invited Matt Zupan to come in and have a look, i had a chat with him and he too was a very nice guy, extremely easygoing and great to talk to just as i had remembered.
He also wanted to take a few pictures, so i went into his office and had a nice chat about how i felt about my result from stage one, and the procedure i was going to have..the guy is a fountain of knowledge regarding HT'S.
I was then offered a drink and invited to talk to Dr Ron about my situation,we spoke about how i felt about the results from stage one. I explained to him that i was delighted and felt that the initial goal of creating a natural look had been more than accomplished.
He asked me what my main concerns were this time and what exactly i hoped to achieve from the next surgery. He also examined my hair and was pleased with the outcome, he really is a lovely, warm caring, compassionate and easy to talk to guy.
We had a chat about my goals and i said my primary objective was to strengthen the hairline a little, and to add a little density to the mid core.
I also said i was not too worried about the crown area. He was fine about this and he said he only wanted to do what was best for me so that i could be happy, and what would make me the most comfortable.
That night i went back to the hotel i had a lengthy look in the mirror, i thought long and hard about what i wanted, and about what i had said to Dr Ron.
After staring at my my reflection in the mirror i thought ,that my crown showed quite a bit more than i liked, and as i am a repair case then maybe i could regret not having hair at the crown later.
I decided that if i could get a light coverage at the crown(vertex)..just enough for some concealer like Nanogen, Toppix or Demmatch to work with i would be much happier. And in the future if did have a little donor left i could maybe address the hairline a little then.
Not that there is anything wrong with the hairline..its totally natural i just wanted to maybe lower it a very small amount.
I want to stress its very important to know your exact goals before your surgery, providing they are realistic of course and even though i changed my mind late in the day im glad i did.
The morning of the surgery i arrived at 8am and was greeted by Janna and Dr Paul who i had only met breifly on my last visit.
He invited me into his office and showed me the pictures that were taken the previous day...i was shocked and in awe. It's not until you see the before and after pictures side by side in front of you that you realise just how far you have come, as growth kind of just creeps upon you without you realising it after a while.
Dr Paul examined my head but noticed that unfortunately my laxity wasn't as great as we would have liked. He put this down to the fact that i had had 3 previous surgeries. He then explained to me he would probably be able to get around 1000-1500 grafts, as apposed to the 2000 we had initially hoped for.
I wasn't phased by this, as i knew he was right my laxity wasn't great i could feel it was tight from doing the scalp exercises in the build up to the surgery, so in all fairness i was kind of expecting this kind of figure anyway, and was more than happy with the amount estimated.
He also said he could remove the small part of my old Scar that was left over from the first pass.
So after talking with Dr Paul i decided the plan of attack was to mainly address the crown area as priority, and to put a small amount in the hairline just to add a small extra amount of density.
Dr Paul then drew his work areas on my scalp and showed me with the mirror what he was planning to do and asked if this is what i meant and we agreed on a plan.
His concern right from the word go was to make sure i was 100% happy and comfortable with what was going to be done, he spent quite a lengthy time explaining his intentions, he was a good listener and i think my plan was a good one.
I was happy i had changed my mind about the crown area, but i felt kind of bad, as just the day before i told Dr Ron i was going to leave the crown alone, and concentrate on the frontal third....there was no pressure to have work done in these areas it was simply my choice but as i looked at myself that night i knew i was making a mistake.
Lots of guys are happy with no crown and density up front, but because i have no hair in the crown except for some unsightly plugs,i couldn't even conceal it with a little Nanogen or Toppik.
So a light coverage would help in that department, and as i said earlier i could always add a little more to the hairline down the line in the future donor permitting.
After the plan was arranged Dr Paul took me into his procedure room, which was impeccably clean and very modern looking with the most amazing view out of the window of a lake.
All the staff said hi and i remembered them from last year, they were all so friendly and well mannered and straight away any nerves i did have just vanished right out the door.
Del was there telling his usual jokes( nice guy) and they all seemed in a fantastic mood....a very happy workforce Tom came by and said hello too even though he was working on another patient.
Dr Paul started by giving me some med's for pain and to help me relax, he explained he had experience in pain management and at no time did he want me to feel pain.
If i did he wanted me to let him know straight away, he then gave me what i believe was called a nerve block injection along the donor scar area, which wasn't painful at all just a little uncomfortable, but no worse than the dentist.
After that he moved around to the front and used the vibrating tool, i remembered this from last time, it was used to administer the anaesthetic.
This really is a cool device as the feeling of the vibration totally overides the feeling of the injections going in at the same time, which is in my mind ingenious.
When my head was numb he turned me over, and i laid face down on the chair with my head in a kind of groove, a bit like a travel cushion.
He began to remove the strip and was asking all the time making sure i couldn't feel anything. This was a very cool part of the procedure as you could here what they were doing but you just couldn't feel anything and i nearly fell asleep a few times i was so relaxed.
Dr Paul confirmed again at this point my laxity was very tight and he gave me the strip sizes (to which i can't recall i'm sure Janna will remember for me). He used sutures rather than staples for the closure.
After the strip was removed i was sat back up and asked if i was comfortable, so he could make incisions.
He began doing this, it was pain free and all the time i could hear a crunch when he made an incision and i also could hear him counting as he went along.
All the time he was working on me he was explaining every step in detail, he was always asking if i could feel any pain.
He was very attentive and caring and knew just how to make you feel at ease( must be a family trait as Dr Ron was great like that too last year).
Around midday we broke for lunch and i was escorted to the bathroom by a tech called DEL, who i might add has a wicked sense of humour which is great. He waited for me outside to make sure i was ok then i went for lunch.
It was chinese....let me tell you folks if your from the UK and like chinese food then you will love US chinese food it was simply awesome!!
After lunch Dr Paul checked my scalp to see if i could still feel anything just to make sure the numbness was still there.
Just around the front i could slightly feel where it had worn off,so he injected some more numbing med's before we began again, he made all the incisions himself and left around 200 spare for tweaking afterwoods.
I believe the totall graft count was around 1350 or close to that amount,(will get the exact amount of Janna) with the majority going in the crown.
Doctor Paul then told his experienced techs which grafts to place, and in which areas of my scalp and they began placing in pairs, with the The doc returning very frequently to keep an eye on me...again i want to stress he was very attentive.
When most of the grafts were placed it was decided that the remaining 200 or so would be placed near the hairline.
Janna began placing these too along with another lovely female tech they all make you feel totally at ease. Tom hairtech also came in again to say hi, even though he was working on another patient which was cool as hes a great guy.
In fact they all are, the whole SMG team are not only like a well oiled machine like ive said before, but they are like a large extended family and i feel like ive made some great friends.
All the time the procedure was happening i was offered drinks on a regular basis, and i even got to watch one of my favourite movies which was cool. They have an extensive collection of movies or you can listen to music to make your whole procedure more comfortable.
During my lunch break i remember mentioning to Del one of the techs that everyone was so nice and friendly, he replied "yeah they are all great i love them all like my family"...i thought wow! that's one happy workforce.
After a few hours in the chair it starts to get uncomfortable on the old behind lo,l and i was brought a pillow to sit on by a female tech which was great, and thoroughly appreciated...
Imo apart from the obvious skill and technique's involved, the little things set a good clinic apart from a Great one too.
Towards the end of the procedure i got to watch a post operative instructions video, which was different as i didn't see that last year, this was both very professional and helped a lot.
They included a copy in my post op instructions bag along with detailed instruction's too.
All in all a very relaxing day, at times i was so relaxed i could have fallen asleep. I am ecstatic and over the moon with the outcome, both Dr Paul and Dr Ron are sensational doctors, they are both very highly skilled and i am just so happy i got the chance and the privilege to have them both work on me.
That night i slept great, they give you pillow protectors and pain meds along with graftcyte spray in you aftercare kit. And i had a pain free nights sleep.
The following day i went back to SMG for a shampoo, they again showed me how to do this properly which was cool. They also went through the emergency contact numbers with me and asked if i had any questions.
They reassured me that if i had any questions or problems no matter how minor i thought they were, to get in touch...this shows true compassion for the patients welfare and i was impressed by this.
Whilst in Minnesota it would be a real shame if you didn't get to visit some of the attractions and tourist destinations.
The food there is fantastic and the Mall Of America is simply mind blowing, with loads of things to do. There is a large funfair type world in the centre called Nickelodeon universe, and its great to eat lunch in their food courts watching the loop the loop rollercoasters whizz by.
To sum up ive loved my experiences at SMG, i adore the staff and am equally happy with both the surgeries i have received from both Doctors.
The support staff like Janna and Tom are simply amazing and the techs are both delightful, skilled, lighthearted and very professional.
If you live in the UK and are worried about going to the US for surgery the simple answer is don't be its a breeze.
everything is so straight forward right from the flights, customs, directions to the actual surgery itself.
The only one problem i encountered the whole time i was there was that living in Yorkshire in the UK lol, i must have sounded like an alien to some of the US folk, as i kept getting asked to repeat myself by people.
but hey people here in the UK don't understand us Yorkshire puddings most of the time anyway.
I will off course keep you all updated with my results as they grow in like before, and look forward to sharing my experience with you great forum guys.
One last note whilst i was a SMG i got to meet former patients who were coming in for updated photos, and i was amazed to say the least as their results were incredible.
To see my Stage Two Photo Gallery click here >
Warm wishes as ever bullitnut.