Hair transplant repair part 3 with Dr Ron Shapiro of Shapiro Medical Group
*Important, this account of stage three may be quite lengthy to read so feel free to skip straight to the surgery part if you wish. I personally like to go into as much detail as possible however because there are thousands of people out there in similar situations I have found myself in over the years. People everywhere around the world these days can find themselves needing quality work and repairs from different clinics, due to the very nature of this industry. There will no doubt be people who don't feel the need to read such extensive accounts, and I understand this completely, but in my opinion the more information you are armed with prior to making a decision about your Hair transplant surgery, the more of a good thing ultimately. This is why I always treat my write ups more like a personal diary and try to include as much information as I can remember. Hopefully this will benefit any reader whoís going through or about to go through something similar. This is NOT an advertisement for a particular clinic, itís simply a very detailed account of my OWN experience with one of the best clinics available. The beauty of Internet forums and online blogs these days is that they enable people like myself to share their own experiences with others, and from these types of sites hopefully some people will benefit, and possibly find the right answers to their own hair loss and restoration problems. So before commencing with the write up I would like to personally thank all the Forum owners for making these sites possible, they have helped me come a long way, and sometimes with all the negative issues that can surround these types of sites we can forget their primary objectives, which is simply to HELP.
I booked my flights again using Travel supermarket.com as they always seem to come up with some very reasonable rates, i like this site in the UK as you get the option of picking the exact flights you require from the list of results shown by their search engine. Other useful travel sites in the UK i find are sites like Expedia.co.uk, which in my opinion are also very reasonable. An alternative though would be to go straight to the Airline providers own website and book that way.
The reason i use Travel supermarket is i like to find specific flights by Delta/KLM Airlines that fly regularly from my local Airport (Leeds/Bradford). I like flights that have only a one stop at Amsterdam airport, as it's extremely easy to navigate and hard to make a mistake finding where to go.
The first flight is normally a KLM city hopper which takes approx 50 Min's to arrive in Amsterdam and if you pick the flights well the lay over time in Amsterdam can be very short, before getting onto the larger Delta Airline plane to Minneapolis St Paul Airport.
When you arrive in Amsterdam be prepared for some questions from customs security regarding your trip to the US. This is nothing at all to worry about, it's all very routine and my advice is to tell the truth about your trip. They are not at all interested in why you are going really unless you pose a security risk so please don't feel any need to panic at all. I took a letter i obtained from Shapiro Medical stating i was going to the US for a Hair Restoration procedure. They were very cool with it and the whole thing lasted around a minute.
One word of advice here though, is make sure you have applied for your customs waiver online and printed the form off as they may ask to see it at this point.
They will also want to see your E ticket/Itinerary at this point too, so itís always a good idea to print a few off just in case you miss place one along the way.
After the initial questions which everyone has, you proceed through to security customs, this is just like every other airport and you go through a scanner etc. This process takes around ten seconds and you are done. You can then proceed to a waiting area ready to board your flight to the US.
The flights with Delta are great, they have inboard entertainment either in the headrests or on large screens throughout the plane. The staff on board are usually American which goes to say they are always extremely courteous, helpful and friendly and constantly come round with refreshments the whole flight.
Another word of advice is to make sure you take a pen with you for this flight as once onboard everyone has to fill in a small customs form and it can be hard to ask someone to borrow one if they don't speak your language.
The flight to Minneapolis St Paul took around nine hours, but wasn't so bad due to having entertainment and meals on board. Throughout the whole journey they played four quality new release films in total which helped pass the time and almost filled the whole duration of the flight.
Another tip with Delta, is if you go on their very own website prior to your trip you have the opportunity to upgrade your economy seat to an economy comfort seat for a small fee. This option gives you a little more leg room and the seats recline a little further. If you wish to purchase these upgraded seats i would however do it as soon as possible as they sell up fairly quick and i could only upgrade mine for the return flight.
Once you land in the US everyone is required to go through BORDER CONTROL, as this is the first point of entry to the UNITED STATES. This is a breeze and only takes a few minutes. Theres nothing too it, you simply get asked the purpose of your visit (Tell the truth, again the letter from SMG helped) and they take a look at your passport, ask to see your printed ESTA application and take your finger prints and that's it!
All in all the whole procedure of getting from the UK to the US is incredibly easy and nothing at all to worry about, not even for an inexperienced flyer. Its harder in my opinion to navigate yourself around a large UK city than to travel thousands of miles to another country. It's such a shame more and more people don't realise just how simple the whole thing actually is.
Once you go through the BORDER CONTROL area the next room is baggage reclaim where you reclaim your belongings from the baggage rollers. You then pass through some double doors and out into the Arrivals area.
PLEASE NOTE:- Most of the local hotels have a free shuttle bus service to the airport which run fairly regularly. If you are stopping at the LA QUINTA INNS & SUITES as i did your required to call them when you have picked up your baggage to arrange a free pickup. Phone: 952-830-1300.
To find the free shuttle pick up points just go straight forward once you have picked up your baggage and it's sign posted to the Hotel Shuttle Pick up area. Next to the Shuttle area is a Taxi firm too that could take you to the Airport in the unlikely event of a problem, or if you don't want to wait for the Hotel Shuttle, these charge approx $35.
Another important note:- If you are stopping at LA QUINTA make sure you get on the Bloomington West , American BLVD shuttle as LA QUINTA have two hotels in the region, so don't get on the wrong one please, they are easy to distinguish apart as the hotel names are on the sides of the vans.
The hotel looks huge from outside, kind of like a skyscraper, and i have added a picture so you know you are at the right one. If you are stopping at The Country Inn and Suites hotel they have their own shuttle bus too, and this hotel is situated to the rear of the Hotel LA QUINTA. I have added a photo taken from my hotel room window at the rear of LA QUINTA so you can see just how close they are to each other.
Hotel La Quinta Hotel La Quinta
Hotel Country Inn And Suites to the rear of La Quinta
The day before my surgery I took a free shuttle arranged by the hotel up to SMG to meet the gang, and to say my hello's and have my post op photos taken.
As soon as I walked through the door it was like i had never been away, i was greeted with warmth and respect from the receptionist who telephoned Janna to inform her i had arrived.
The entire population of people I have met who live in this part of the world have got to be the friendliest, well mannered and incredibly nice people on the planet.
In all honesty it's hard to explain, but their whole demeanor is a million miles away from the harsh sometimes rude nature of a lot of the UK public.
I am not specifically running the UK population down, as I am proud to be from England it's my home, but until you meet someone face to face over there, you will be simply amazed as to just how super cool they all are. We as a nation in general could learn a lot from them in my humble opinion.
Janna quickly came out to greet me and was just as I remembered, charming, warm, very friendly and easy to talk to, any slight nerves I had about the upcoming procedure just seemed to melt away at this point.
We proceeded to the photo room where she took some pre op pictures from various angles against the blue back drop you see on all the SMG patient posts.
She then uploaded them onto a PC and offered me a drink, we had a little chat about my expectations and goals for the upcoming procedure the next day.
Dr Ron then came in and said "hi", we had a brief chat, shook hands and spoke about my plans for the morning, he was just as I remembered too, very sweet, very well spoken, friendly and helpful.
We agreed to have a more detailed chat the next morning, as he was very busy that day in Surgery and he likes to give his patients his complete attention which was cool and very professional.
Minneapolis has some incredible restaurants and that afternoon after leaving Shapiro Medical Group I visited a local Italian Restaurant in Bloomington, fairly close to my hotel called the ďOlive GardenĒ. The food was fantastic, I had chicken smothered with mozzarella cheese and a nice soup, with bread sticks that were just to die for. Below is a picture of the restaurant which if you are in town I wholeheartedly recommend.
The Olive Garden Italian Restaurant.
My hotel, the Hotel La Quinta has many great features, but being what i call a food junkie my favourite was itís own room service that is run by an outside firm called American Pie.
It's a pizza firm and they deliver directly to your hotel room should you decide not to go out for food. I remember using them frequently on my last trip to Shapiro and become quite addicted to their ďTIMBERWOLFĒ grilled chicken sandwich. Their delivery service is very prompt and their delivery hours are very good too:-
Mon.-Thurs. 10am-3am *Fri. 10am-3.30am*Sat. 11am-3.30am*Sun. 11am-3am
Useful tip though for out of the country patients* on the phone it states to dial 9+ the number on the Room service guide, this isn't strictly correct as you need to actually dial 9, then the area code which is 1 followed by the room service telephone number, this was a little confusing at first for myself being a non US resident.
Below is a picture of their menu.
Room Service Menu
The hotel La Quinta serves complimentary breakfasts that comprise of a Continental style breakfast Featuring Make your own Waffles, these are served daily between 6-9am Mon-Fri and 7-10am Sat-Sun.
La Quinta also has lots of vending machines serving cold drinks on various floors throughout, and has complimentary coffee machines in your room, as well as a hairdryer, an ironing board and all the basic requirements of a good modern facility. Depending on the room you book it may also boast a microwave and fridge like mine did.
There is also free WI FI in your room which has high speed Internet access, this really came in handy for talking to the family back home via Skype. There was also a good quality flat screen 32 inch TV with a great selection of channels to be watched. Below is a list of many of the Hotel Services:-
The hotel has a fantastic Transportation schedule with regular trips to and from the Mall of America and the Airport, and they were more than happy to drop me off at Shapiro Medical Group on the way to either of these on request by phoning the front desk. Below is a timetable of their Transport schedule:-
Overall the hotel La Quinta is a very clean, comfortable, reasonably priced and well equipped friendly hotel that even boastís a nice swimming pool downstairs, it has staff that bend over backwards to accommodate your every request, which is nice when you are visiting a foreign country and could be suffering from nerves about your upcoming procedure.
There are other hotels that you could actually stop at if visiting Shapiro Medical Group and the majority of them are very close to each other and within walking distance to the clinic. Below are a few other local Hotels.
The Country Inn and Suites being one of them which I stopped at the first time I visited SMG. You can actually see this hotel from my bedroom window in the La Quinta as itís situated to the rear of the hotel La Quinta as the photo taken from my bedroom window shows below.
Day of the Surgery with Dr Ron Shapiro at Shapiro Medical Group
I arrived at the clinic at approx 8.00am and was greeted by the receptionist who gave me some forms to read and complete, she then gave me a lunch time menu and let me choose what I would like for my lunch, to which I decided upon an Hawaiian pizza.
No sooner had I chose my lunch Janna arrived and greeted me with her warm smile and endearing personality, she led me into the surgery room where I was given a surgery jacket/smock to change into and was greeted by a few more of the friendly staff, who all went out of their way to make me feel at ease and comfortable.
Around 5 mins later Dr Ron himself arrived and immediately began to address my concerns and desires from the surgery, we chatted in depth and he asked what exactly it was I personally was hoping to achieve this time around.
We chatted for quite a while about what concerned me the most, and the main topic was whether I personally wanted to address the crown a little more or concentrate solely on the frontal area with the possibility of maybe adding a little density through the middle donor permitting.
I already had an idea of what I wanted and ran this by Dr Ron, I told him that my main concern was the large size of my forehead and that more than anything I would like to mainly concentrate on strengthening the hairline a little with a plan to hopefully lower it slightly.
I figured my plan should hopefully reduce the look of my large forehead a bit as this bothered me. I wanted to keep my options sensible and realistic, after all I am a repair patient and have unfortunately got fine hair characteristics and a fairly depleted donor due to my previous surgeries before SMG.
So the final plan we came up with was to lower the hairline slightly keeping it real and without opting for a very youthful low hairline. I have always had realistic expectations as to what could be done in my case and thought the plan sounded great.
I loved the naturalness of my old hairline, itís just I felt i would prefer it a little lower and full looking to enable a little more options regarding styling mainly and to hopefully frame my face slightly better.
Dr Ron mentioned that I was 38yrs old, so we had to design a hairline that would take into account the future and still look natural in years to come, he also explained that I only had a limited amount of donor left to play with via the Strip method with a possibility of maybe FUE later down the line.
So there we have it the main plan was to address the hairline this time, which I was thrilled about. We also discussed the crown/vertex a little and I told him that after my last surgery I could now get away convincingly with using a little concealer to hide the loss back there.
I explained that as it was mainly out of my field of vision, meaning that I donít have to see it every day in the mirror I was more than happy to use concealer on that area, but I asked that if there was a small amount of grafts left over after the hairline work could we maybe add them to the crown, just so the Toppix/Nanogen has a little more to adhere to.
I have to stress here that Dr Ron really listens to your plans, ideas and goals and tries very hard to work out a plan that works mutually well, both for the patient and for what can be achieved realistically with the future taken into consideration which I admire him immensely for.
After we agreed on the plan Dr Ron introduced me to another Hair Transplant physician who was visiting SMG that day to observe and learn from Shapiro Medical Groups techniques and protocols, He explained he only had a small clinic and was very interested in watching and learning from Dr Ron at work.
I donít recall his name but he was the sweetest of guys and seemed knowledgeable, and very polite and eager to ask questions at available opportunities.
Dr Ron then started to draw the hairline we could hopefully mutually agree on before we commenced surgery, this took a while as he kept looking at it from various angles and was very thorough making sure it looked good and natural from all sides, he showed the visiting physician his design, who seemed suitably impressed from Dr Ronís plans.
After he had finished the design he thought looked good he passed me a hand held mirror so I could have a look and decide if itís what we both had in mind, I have to say his proposed hairline was way better than I could have imagined and I quickly started to get very excited and quite emotional at this point.
For anyone who hasn't actually met Dr Ron itís hard to explain just how sincere and nice a guy he is, I have read posts from many different patients over the years saying he is a top guy, but to be honest thatís nice, but it really does not do him justice in my opinion as itís almost like his sole purpose in life is to make others happy. He cares more than any other physician I have ever met, and itís not hard to see why he has so much respect from his peers and friends alike.
When I had finished looking at the new hairline in the mirror I was given my medication of Valium, an antibiotic and something else thatís slipped my mind ready for the dayís surgery. I was offered an ice cold glass of water to wash the pills down and then asked politely to lay flat, face down on a chair that looked rather like a dentistís chair.
My head was now laying at the top face down on a head rest and there were two red straps underneath to hold onto. I was told by Dr Ron that they were going to use something called Vitrase@ which is a drug used to increase donor laxity in tight donor regions, in my case this was due to having previous surgeries.
Next came the fun bit, one of the Techís who I was jokingly asked not to mention their name for fear of me embarrassing him came in with a clever back massaging device and began to massage my back.
This was a great relaxing feeling and was primarily done to relax the patient whilst the donor area was numbed and extracted. They used a special vibrating type device with needles to numb the head around the strip extraction area and they numbed the forehead area as well.
I have to state here that at no point what so ever was there any notable pain, there was the odd feeling of like a scratch, but nothing at all more noticeable than a trip to the dentist, in fact it to be honest it was way less painful than a trip to a dentist.
After I was numbed up the strip was extracted and I was told that they had got a decent size strip, although I will have to add strip details later when i speak with Janna.
I was then turned over and sat up in a slightly reclined position and asked if I was comfy ready for the excisions to begin. Before Dr Ron Started the incisions one of the technicians asked me if I would like to watch a movie on the big screen TV they have on the wall in front of you, I replied "no not at the moment" and explained "I was just happy to listen to the radio".
Dr Ron was then accompanied again by the visiting Hair Transplant Physician who watched Dr Ron do all of the incisions, he seemed suitably impressed by Dr Ronís work and technique and asked several questions and was eager to learn.
All of the time Dr Ron was very attentive to me and kept asking if I was ok and to let him know immediately if I felt any pain or discomfort whatsoever.
The incisions took up until just after noon with every one being counted by a bleeping device. I was told I had around 1800 grafts which was great, so Dr Ron did at a guess around 1500 incisions at the hairline, leaving some to touch up later and some to add to the crown.
At lunch time I had a visit to the rest room and my lunch was wheeled in on a trolley which was my lovely pizza. I was also offered a soda by Janna who said my hairline was going to look great.
After lunch Janna came in and asked if I was ready for a movie yet I said yes and picked out a comedy.
I was then given some more meds and the numbing medication was topped up so the placement could begin, this was done initially by Janna, Tom, and two more lovely female techís i believe who have been there a long time at SMG, I know this as I remember them from both my previous surgeries and how polite and caring they all were.
The placing was done in shifts by the techs, and the slithering, microscope work was done by some lovely female technicians against the window area, I might add these technicians were also very caring and kept enquiring as to my welfare and making sure i was doing well.
SMG is like a well oiled machine, everyone seems to have their place and they all seem to know exactly what to do, and when to do it, itís rare to see such great organisation in a workforce today and was a joy to behold.
Everyone seemed so happy in their work and they had great values and pride in what they were doing. You could see that they all had a genuine compassion for the patient and loved the fact that they were helping people get their lives back together.
Halfway through the afternoon Dr Paul came in and had a little chat with me, he was charming and witty just like a remembered from before, he joked that I had gone to the weaker Shapiro brother this time teasing Dr Ron, and was telling me he had had a female patient that day.
They both are lovely guys and are both gifted at what they do which is why in my opinion they make the perfect team at Shapiro Medical Group.
Matt Zupan also popped by to say hello mid afternoon which was good, as heís another top guy with a wealth of hair transplant information and a wicked sense of humuor.
When the hairline work was done I was invited to have a look in the hand held mirror, and was absolutely blown away, it looked awesome!, and again like my previous surgeries, and being the soft hearted person I am I could feel myself getting a little emotional. To those none hair loss sufferers this may sound silly or kind of stupid or even vain or petty, but when you have experienced negativity in your life for so long due to this awful predicament, itís like a huge weight being lifted off your shoulders when something finally gets done about it.
After another rest room visit Janna, Tom and the other techs began planting in the crown area, it was so relaxing just sat there without any pain or discomfort watching TV I almost dropped asleep on numerous occasions. Dr Ron was never far from the surgery room the whole time and came in frequently to see how things were progressing.
When the crown work was finished Dr Ron came in and along with Janna, Tom and another lovely female tech they tweaked the hairline just a little to make sure that everything was absolutely spot on.
When the surgery was finishing up they put on a very informative DVD showing post operative instructions which contained very precise easy to follow instructions. They also gave me a copy of this DVD and a post operative bag with written post op instructions, contact numbers, some Graftcyte spray, a pillow protector and some post op meds for pain and swelling.
In the post op bag there was also a staple removal kit too which is something I have never seen before because on my previous surgeries I had sutures, Below is a picture:-
I will take this to my local NHS walking centre to get the staples removed at around 10-14 days post op.
When the surgery was finished I collected my belongings and changed back into my own zip up top.
*Please note that it has to be a zip up, or button up top so it doesnít get pulled over your head and damage any grafts.
I was just about ready to go back to the hotel when I went to put on my own baseball type cap as before, but Janna showed me a type of cap that SMG patients sometimes prefer to wear straight after surgery, It was light to feel, black in color and looked almost like a bandana that tied at the back. I was asked if I would prefer one of these to return to the hotel in and agreed as it was very comfortable.
Below is a picture:-
Bandanna type hat
After saying my goodbyes for the evening and receiving warm wishes from everyone there I returned to the hotel using the free shuttle bus that was arranged by the lovely Janna earlier.
The first night when I returned to my hotel I was expecting some pain, simply because I have read from other patients on the forums over the years that staples can be hard to sleep on and are generally more painful than sutures.
Personally however I found this not to be the case. The first few hours after returning to my hotel I did have some minor discomfort, but found it went away very quickly after taking a couple of pain killers from the post op kit I was given.
In the post op Kit I was given was a blue solution in a plastic spray bottle called Graftcyte Spray, i was advised this was to be sprayed at half hourly intervals to promote good graft healing, and I personally remember from my last visit this stuff works wanders at promoting good healing.
When you arrive back at your hotel you are given a pillow protector in your post op kit, this is simply there to use in order to stop any possible slight donor site blood seeping onto the hotel pillows etc. I personally find though and everyoneís obviously different that sleeping in the bed afterwards a little uncomfortable.
*MY OWN PERSONAL TIPS FOR SLEEPING IMMEDIATELY POST OP
If you have remembered to fetch an around the neck travel pillow this is what I do:-
1.I carefully push the armchair up to the side of the bed, they are usually next to the bed, if not donít strain yourself though, although they aren't heavy.
2.Place pillows on the chair to build up the height of the chair to a similar height of the bed.
3.Place the pillow protector provided in the post op kit or a soft baby type towel over the back of the chair to protect from blood.
4.Lie in the chair as if itís a bed with your feet stretching onto the adjacent bed
5.Place the travel pillow around your neck and pull the covers over you and your all set.
I like this method as itís hard to turn your head and potentially damage any new grafts.
The Above method worked great for me at Country Inn And Suites but at the LA QUINTA i had the added bonus of a reclining armchair, same principle just no need to put next to the bed and no need for the extra pillows BONUS!!!
Below is what I mean:-
And if you do sleep in bed i personally cover the entire pillow with a soft blanket and the pillow protector like so:-
The following day I returned to SMG for a hair wash, this is always a good idea if you are in town long enough in my opinion. Once my hair was washed I thanked everyone and bid them all farewell. They are a great gang and to be honest it was a little emotional leaving and i could feel myself getting upset, but i left with the great feeling of knowing that my hairloss issues had been dealt with, which made me feel great.
I decided to walk back to my hotel, as it was a lovely day and being only 6mins from the hotel by foot itís not 100% necessary to depend on the shuttle at all times.
I filmed my walk just to give you an impression of the distance between SMG and hotel LA QUINTA. You will have to excuse the bumpiness of the video as it was taken by a small digital camera and not a video camera, that and the fact I stopped to admire a squirrel halfway haha.
I also took a photo from the entrance to hotel LA QUINTA showing where the SMG building is so you can gauge the distance better. I hope this type of information helps as I certainly would have appreciated it on my first visit, because being in a strange country can be scary and daunting at the best of times.
Over the next few days I spent some quality time exploring the area and if you are going to visit MINNEAPOLIS then itís simply a must to take a trip to the Mall Of America, the place is huge with many exciting attractions which include:-
Nickelodeon Land, The Amazing Mirror Maze, superb restaurants, lots of fantastic retail shops, which all stay open late and are perfect for gifts for the family. There is also a Sea Life Centre downstairs and from what the shuttle driver was telling me they are going to extend it considerably over the next few years.
I hope the good readers of this forum take this write up the right way, which simply is a very detailed account of my fantastic experience with Shapiro Medical Group. I hope it comes across well and shows the fondness I have for the people at SMG, and the local area.
I have nothing to gain in anyway by doing this, I wasn't asked to do this, and have never even been approached to do this, no deals have ever been made for any exchanges of services or anything like that. I certainly donít work for any hair loss related company at all, I have no ulterior motive whatsoever for doing this other than the knowledge and personal satisfaction that i get myself from knowing some people who are in a similar situation to myself can go there without all the unesessary worry accompanied with the travelling to far away places.
I realise this could be misconstrued as some sort of a sales gimic, god knows there are enough spammers on the internet these days, but the truth of the matter is i have spent thousands of hours on the various hairloss forums, over numerous years and have always believed in being honest and giving credit where credits due. Anyone who knows me or has spoke to me via Skype or Telephone, or even someone who has just read my story and forum posts will surely be able to see that i'm honest and if i feel what i believe to be a good result from any other clinic, then i will say so.
I really hope in doing this it illiminates some of the stigma attached with hair loss and having a hair restoration procedure.
God bless you all and thanks for reading.
Pictures to follow and i will keep you all updated on here and the hairloss forums as always Bullitnut.