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Martha, the nurse who transplants hair and removes unwanted ones

Saturday March 21 2020

Martha Kariuki, 31, a trichologist and a nurse.

Martha Kariuki, 31, a trichologist and a nurse. PHOTO | COURTESY 

LILYS NJERU
By LILYS NJERU
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She walked in haste, heaved a quick sorry for being late and ushered a waiting patient into her office.

Outside, a bleak sky stares down as though in mourning. Darkness is setting in to wrap her or do whatever it does when the sky loses her charm. It is a few minutes past 6 pm.

We are about three of us at Noor eye hospital waiting bay. It is quiet here. You can almost hear yourself think aloud.

"I am so sorry for keeping you waiting. The traffic was crazy. Let me get a glass of water then we can get started."

Martha is a trichologist. Trichology is the science of the structure, function, and diseases of the human hair. Clinical trichology is the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and disorders of the human hair and scalp.

Martha transplants and removes unwanted hair.

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At the age of 31, (she looks more youthful) I find this fascinating. First, because she has a full-time day job and second, her knowledge in the field defies the six years' experience on the job.

"After my day job, I come here to meet clients. I am a full-time school nurse," she says.

Eight years ago, Martha was a student at the Nairobi Hospital Cicely McDonnell School of Nursing. She was training to be a nurse when trichology interested her.

"After my graduation in 2014, I got an entry-level nursing job. I was 25 years old and a mother of one. On one particular, I made a random visit to where my friend was working and found out that they were doing a hair transplant."

Martha got fascinated about the process and after a few visits and interactions; they hired her as a theatre assistant.

"At first, I looked at it as just any other job. I was young, a recent graduate and at that time, what mattered then was having a job."

However, with time she realised that being a trichologist was different from being a bedside nurse.

"In trichology, you diagnose the cause of hair loss, diseases of the scalp and treat according to the findings. There is something about conducting a hair transplant. It engages your mind, it is exciting and it is not routine."

The office we are sitting in is where she sees and books in her clients for transplant sessions. The procedure takes place in another bigger room. Here, she has equipment such as a punch graft, which goes into the scalp and removes hair from the donor area. There is also a micro motor, follicle cooler, and a microscope.

"A session with a balding patient can take up to eight hours. However, patients are different in the sense that some have greasy hair which affects the surgical tools making the process last longer. Others are straight forward and have well-oiled scalp."

"Is the process painful?"

"We numb the patients. It is like how dentists work. You can see what is happening but there is no pain."

Outside, it is starting to drizzle and Martha still has another client to see before she calls it a day.

She tells me that with her type of business, it has been a rocky journey to build a list of clientele.

"In 2017, some differences arose at my previous workplace and I had to leave. Before I left, I had already undertaken a trichology course and had been promoted to a theatre officer. I was also pregnant so I took a short break to take care of my newborn baby."

After the baby was about six months old, Martha started mulling the idea of getting back to work. She had thought of starting her hair transplant clinic but she lacked capital.

"With your nursing experience, you can get back into the nursing industry," her family advised.

"I knew that in as much as I still wanted to pursue nursing, I wanted to still practice trichology."

"People might wonder why I have to sacrifice my time in the evenings and weekends when I have a job. For me, it is achieving what I know I can."

She got into a partnership and raised the Sh650,000 she needed to kick-start the business. But trichology is no ordinary business and it took time to catch on. To make ends meet she had to get back into employment.

A hair transplant procedure costs between Sh80,000 and Sh300,000 depending on how much hair that needs to be transplanted. For beard removal, it starts at Sh6, 000.

"Nothing about hair procedures is cheap –from the expensive equipment to the time needed, as one session can take even up to 10 hours. It is not a procedure that you come and say, 'I have lost just a small patch of hair, please be quick, I have somewhere to go.'

Most of her clients are referrals. It is a venture that thrives on the word of mouth.

"It has been a long journey to get here. A few months after we started, we had to downsize to this office. However, there is a light. More clients are enquiring and booking in for hair transplants.[email protected]

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