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Hair Loss in the Visually Impaired

It might be difficult to understand how a man in his 20’s with damaged optic nerves and only 7% sight in both eyes could be bothered by the fact that his hair is falling out. But when I found myself in this position the hair loss became a major source of discomfort for me. The poor eyesight is currently incurable by the medical profession and so I have come to accept it. The hair loss on the other hand is a problem that is treatable and I desperately wanted to treat it.

To me hair loss went far beyond looking at myself in a mirror and not liking what I saw. My sight isn’t good enough to see the full extent of my hair loss but my tactile senses are good enough to be a constant reminder of my situation. How often does one touch their head throughout a day? I dare say we do it much more frequently than we have the opportunity to look in a mirror. A routine scratch of the head could have me repulsed by the absence of hair and more upset by the increasing amount of those smooth areas of skin where I wanted to feel hair coverage. The wind in my hair was another tactile reminder for me. A breeze to the tactile sensitive could be felt in such a way that I could pinpoint the areas of my head that were thinning. Every day I showered and washed my hair I felt areas of bald scalp becoming more common.

After many years of distress over my hair loss I decided to go for a consultation and went on to get 2,000 follicles transplanted. Unfortunately, because it was so personal to me, I didn’t discuss it with anyone and my hasty, naïve research led me to a reckless charlatan of a surgeon in Cork. As time went by it didn’t feel to me that the situation was improving to the extent I had hoped. There was some hair growing but not nearly as much as I was expecting.

After several more years of unhappiness I went for a second opinion on my hair loss and it transpired that I had indeed, along with many others, been mutilated by a charlatan. After a thorough consultation in Dublin, I realized that the majority of my transplanted follicles had been allowed to die and that’s why I saw no improvement. At his point I was actually worse off because I had some hairs growing in a way that was totally unnatural. I was assured that a reconstruction would be possible and this second opinion was so professional and contrasting to my first experience that I had no doubts or worries that the situation could be rectified.

The second experience compared to the first was like night and day. This time, I left the clinic feeling much better about how things had went. Over the following days I was surprised that I didn’t suffer any pain at the back of my head. After my first treatment I was on painkillers 3 times a day for 3 weeks post-surgery compared to 3 individual painkillers I took after the second procedure, which were taken for precaution rather than necessity.

Very soon I was able to feel the fruits of this procedure. Two months after the surgery I could feel the hair growing but my first moment of real joy was about 4 months post-surgery. I have a vivid memory of walking through a field on my own and as I ran my hand through my hair it was an experience I hadn’t felt for 10 years. The new hair was quite obviously growing and thickening again and instinctively a broad smile came across my face. There was no one around and I was walking through a field with a beaming smile on my face. That was the moment I knew that my hair transplant surgery was successful. And it continued to grow and thicken for another 8 months. During this time I had countless moments of uncontrolled spontaneous smiling.

I’ve now let my hair grow a little longer at the front. Now when I wash my hair it triggers a smile rather than a grimace. If I don’t comb it after I shower it flops down and I can feel it on my forehead. Now either a gentle breeze or a gale force wind can blow through my hair, toss it all up and I just smile to myself. I feel the wind in my hair and I’m filled with happiness.

As well as feeling the benefits of this procedure I also hear them frequently. Over the last 12 months people are regularly telling me how great I’m looking and how it’s younger I’m getting. As I wasn’t completely bald, just severely thinning, the transformation was gradual and completely unnoticed. Nobody I didn’t personally tell has suspected that I have had hair transplant surgery. But yet they notice I look younger and can’t figure out why.

There are people who lose their hair and are not bothered by it. Then there are those whose hair loss becomes all-consuming. I was in the latter group but now I’m alive again. It’s not as thick as a person who does not suffer from male pattern baldness but it’s definitely thick enough to make me enjoy every day again.

After my 18 months post-surgery checkup I was given a full set of before and after photos. Whilst examining these with magnification software on my computer I couldn’t believe the difference. The old me looked even worse than I had thought when placed side by side with the new me. The man from 18 months ago looked 5 years older than the new guy. I showed these pictures to my mother and she pointed out another interesting thing about the photos. The guy from 18 months ago looked miserable and the new guy had a beaming smile on his face. This was not by design – it’s simply my new reality. The mental relief on the inside is visible on the outside.

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