After years and years of contemplating a FUE procedure for my vastly diminishing hair and after visiting several clinics in the UK including The Private Clinic & Ziering, I decided to research procedures in Turkey and I'm so glad that I did.
The one company that stood out amongst others was 'Get Hair' who are agents for Dr Ilker Apaydin and Dr. Tayfun, and I struggled to find a single bad review for them or the surgeons on the internet, and considering there are hundreds of them, that was enough for me to delve my research a little deeper.
Well what can I say? From day one, I was in touch with a patient coordinator called Stuart Cumin who is based in London, and this immediately really helped to put my mind at ease. Just knowing that there was someone representing the company so close to home really went a long way to getting me where I am now.
Stuart was brilliant and always replied to emails within minutes. He wasn't pushy, there was no 'big sell', he was there to answer my questions, any concerns that I harboured and every single question returned the answer I wanted.
Within a day of sending my photographs in for evaluation, Dr Ilker Apaydin (my choice over Dr Tayfun due to his rapidly increasing reputation) had returned his recommendation and I was blown away by the price quoted which included the procedure, transportation to and from Ataturk Airport after landing, 2 nights accommodation with breakfast, aftercare....the list goes on and on.
The recommendation was 3600 grafts (potential for around 8000 hairs) for £3200! To put that into context, The Private Clinic in the UK quoted £6800 for 3000 HAIRS (not grafts) and Ziering quoted £9400 for 4000 grafts via FUT - the 'cheap' method - both with surgeons with very little reputation.
All of a sudden this becomes affordable! And yes, after a few self doubts.. 'Do I really need to do this?' - 'Should I just bald gracefully?' - 'Could that £3200 be better spent on half a new kitchen??' - Well, one day a drop of water fell off our gutter, landed plumb in the middle of my head trickled down over my nose. As my eyes followed the droplet, yep - mind made up!
Anyway to cut a long story short(er) - here I am, post-op and it was one of the most insanely brilliant experiences of my life.
If you book through Get Hair, you arrive at the airport, collect luggage, head to the exit where a taxi driver is waiting holding the card you've been told to look out for, into the taxi, the phone rings immediately from Mel (Turkish patient co-ordinator) to inform you of pick up time in the hotel to the hospital the next morning (which is a 3 minute walk), up for breakfast, off to the clinic, fill in some forms, into the operating room to shave your hair, donor hair dyed (so they can easily locate donor grafts), wash off dye, give you some tablets to relax you (if you're anxious), then in comes Dr. Ilker.
Such a lovely man. Very smart and trendy in appearance, smiling, makes you feel totally at ease - I was a little 'star struck' truth be told. I've been watching videos on this fella every day for the last 5 months and all of a sudden he's stood in front of me.
He asked about my hair and what I expected and he told me what was realistic and what we would be aiming for. Sadly the crown wouldn't be covered in this procedure which I was little gutted about as it's quite thin, but hey ho, I was about to have between 7 & 8,000 hairs planted into my balding scalp and actually have a hair line for the first time in 20 years, woooooo. Good enough for me! Hair line- drawn, via consultation with his partner, all very re-assuring and then off to work.
So after having a completely painless blood test (never felt a thing, very skilled nurse) it was time for the anaesthetic and yes this wasn't quite so pleasant as the blood test - BUT nowhere near as bad as you may think. I'm not great with needles and believe it or not was worried about this more than the procedure, but after a few shots it literally goes numb and your head feels 'dead' - in a good way.
Dr Ilker then begins the incisions which is a strange sensation as you can't feel anything, but can hear it. Thousands of little jabs in your head. Just a word of advice, IF you do feel anything, tell them immediately as they will put more anaesthetic in, don't think you're annoying them or anything, just say 'pain' and they understand that. A couple of times I could feel it a little and thought hmm that's actually not too bad, but I shouldn't have been feeling anything so told them to put more in.
Once the incisions are done (the magic part!) you don't really see Dr Ilker anymore apart from a few harvestings to get things going, his work is pretty much done and you're in the capable hands of his brilliant team of lovely nurses who do the rest.
Extraction (takes a couple of hours) again don't feel anything, just a strange pickling sensation - then you step through into the other room where they bring you lunch, the nurses go for a bite too whilst one nurse prepares all of your grafts for implantation, then you're back at it in no time for the 'exciting' bit.
Now this is a very long process, so try to train your mind and prepare for it. I met a lad in the hotel the night before who had just had his done and said he didn't really expect it to be that long. I think overall the implantation takes about 4 hours, and that's 4 hours laid on your back and you have to be very still which is easier said than done, it feels about 20 hours! You do just want it done, but try to think of the end game and excite yourself a little about what life will be like in 6 months time...it worked for me. Perhaps also bring some earphones and an iPod or something, that would help.
So that was it, all done and dusted. Post op you meet with Leila, another patient coordinator who goes through the medication that they supply - things like anti-swelling, pain killers (if needed), and antibiotics to prevent any potential infections - and answers any questions you may have then that's it, back to hotel for a bit of tea then up next day, back to hospital for your first gentle post-wash, a full-run down on how to look after yourself for the very important next 2 weeks, then hand shakes and off you go.
Now I know we're all in this for the end result and if you went on holiday you'd review the hotel at the end of your stay (unless it was really bad) - but this company, surgeons and medical staff associated with it are so amazing, you can't help but feel the need to review them immediately. They went above and beyond to ensure this pretty 'hair raising' experience went as smoothly as it possibly could.
As for Dr Ilker, well he's a genius in his field. This fella is officially in the top 20 of hair restoration surgeons in the world and I was also informed that the surgeons of Harley Street and from the world over come out here to be trained by him! Says a lot. If you want to be in good hands, get in touch with Get Hair (if you want amazing support) or just look up Dr. Ilker at the New Age clinic or via his personal website.
I'm really excited to see my results, already now 12 days post op my hair looks INSANE - I can't stop looking at it, and although yes it will more than probably fall out soon (all transplanted hair goes into a 'sleep' phase) I've already had a taste of what it will look like whne it all starts growing again.
Just to end with. I see a lot of people come out here and go back home the day after surgery, I actually booked a week and so far I'm so glad I did as it's giving the head a much needed rest and reducing the chances of damaging any of the implanted hairs.
If you go with Dr Ilker, he uses the Hotel Modus in the area of Besiktas for his clients (as do other hospitals - there's loads of people here with bandages on their heads), it's just £45 extra a night including breakfast, I would definitely recommend extending your stay which I did for an extra 2 days and then I booked the Radison Blu up near the airport for an extra 3 days (taxi paid for by Get Hair!!) and had a wander around Florya which is just beautiful. They have a huge aquarium up there, a superb shopping centre, a lovely promenade by the sea lined with restaurants and an air museum, so there's plenty to do.
There were also 40-50 people in the Radison with bandaged heads as it's next door to a clinic, so don't feel nervous about booking in there if you fancy it. On the way to the airport after 6 days, the driver slammed his brakes on and I whacked my head on the seat - had that been the day after the procedure I could easily have lost grafts, so bear that in mind.
But back to Get Hair - if you want hair and are a little nervous about travelling to Turkey - don't. You really are in the best hands and Turkey is so much nicer than I could have ever imagined.