GENEVA, IL – November 16, 2010. For 49-year-old Greg Hedrick of Fredericksburg, Va., a hotel fire in 2005 changed his life in a flash. While performing a routine search and rescue, a flash-over caused the entire room Hedrick was canvassing to burst into flames. Hedrick suffered extensive second and third degree burns over his upper body, and he was left with a large section of permanent hair loss on his scarred scalp, including the back of his head.
After numerous skin graft surgeries and years of therapy to regain movement in his hands, Hedrick’s condition improved – except the noticeable bald spot that was a constant reminder of the fire.
“At first my hair loss wasn’t a big issue, since the burns I suffered were of immediate concern,” said Hedrick. “But once everything else started improving and my hair loss didn’t, it started bothering me more. Unlike my other scars, I couldn’t hide my head under a hat all the time and my scarred bald spot was very noticeable even from a distance.”
Hedrick started looking for options for his hair loss and after meeting with a hair transplant surgeon, Hedrick was optimistic that he could finally get treatment for his hair loss. However, since his workman’s compensation considered hair restoration surgery a cosmetic procedure and not medically required for Hedrick’s treatment, he knew that the procedure was not within his reach. That changed when Hedrick met Edwin S. Epstein, MD, a Virginia Beach, Va., hair restoration surgeon and volunteer physician of the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery’s (ISHRS) Operation Restore program.
Operation Restore is the ISHRS’s pro bono program designed to match prospective hair restoration patients suffering from hair loss as a result of an accident, trauma or disease with a physician willing to help people like Hedrick who lack the resources to obtain treatment on their own.
“Since its inception in 2004, Operation Restore has provided more than $340,000 worth of free hair restoration surgery and expenses for dozens of patients suffering from hair loss due to these circumstances,” said David Perez-Meza, MD, chair of the ISHRS Pro Bono Committee, which oversees Operation Restore. “ISHRS volunteer physicians from around the world donate their services to Operation Restore, and over the years we have helped nearly 30 patients both young and old who would not have had the opportunity to undergo hair transplants and tissue expansion without this program.”
At Dr. Epstein’s suggestion, Hedrick applied to Operation Restore to cover the cost of the surgery needed to restore his hair. To his surprise, Hedrick was accepted into the program and matched with Dr. Epstein.
“It was almost like a dream when I found out that I was accepted by the Operation Restore program to receive a free hair transplant,” said Hedrick.
Hedrick underwent hair restoration surgery with Dr. Epstein in April 2010, receiving 2,632 grafts to cover the large area of hair loss that resulted from the fire. “Greg was very motivated to improve his hair loss, and a hair transplant was a much easier alternative to the tissue expansion procedure originally suggested after his skin grafting,” said Dr. Epstein. “While his donor supply was limited, his hair characteristics were ideal for hair transplantation.”
While Hedrick is happy with his initial results, Dr. Epstein added that it will take a full year from his surgery for the final results. As such, he expects Hedrick to continue to see improvement in his hair over the coming months with increased thickness and fullness.
For Hedrick, the improvements he has seen so far are encouraging. “It feels so much better to have my hair back and not to see my scar every day,” said Hedrick. “In the past, the sun would always bother my scalp because of the burns. I always wore hats even when I was outside for a short period of time. Now, I just look like a regular guy.”
Patients suffering from hair loss due to disease or trauma and cannot afford hair restoration surgery are encouraged to apply to the ISHRS’s Operation Restore program. Applications are available through the ISHRS Web site – www.ishrs.org – and are reviewed by the Pro Bono Committee of the ISHRS. Selected patients are matched with an ISHRS physician volunteer and every effort is made to match patients with physicians in their geographic area. In cases where travel is necessary, the program covers these expenses for the patient.
In June 2008, the Hair Foundation – a non-profit foundation devoted to promoting “hair health” by educating the public about options for treatment and maintenance of healthy hair – formed a collaborative effort with ISHRS to help raise funds through appropriate corporate donors to support Operation Restore.
To make a direct donation to help the Operation Restore program, please visit /media-center/pro-bono-foundation.htm.
Founded in 1993, the ISHRS is a non-profit medical association dedicated to the advancement of the art and science of hair restoration. With a membership of over 1,000 physicians and surgical assistants worldwide, the ISHRS provides continuing medical education to physicians specializing in hair loss and hair restoration surgery and serves as a resource for the public on the latest medical and surgical hair restoration treatments for hair loss. For more information and to locate a physician, visit www.ishrs.org.