A Santa Barbara plastic surgeon is providing, free of charge, reconstructive hair surgery to a U.S. Air Force veteran who’s spent the last 13 years battling the Department of Veterans Affairs for coverage. “All of us finally gave up fighting the VA and just decided to do the right thing for this woman,” reads a statement from the office of Dr. Gregory Keller, who’s teaming up with the Santa Barbara Surgical Arts Center and Celling Bio in Texas to carry out the procedure.
Laura K., 51 years old, joined the Air Force as a medical technician in 1993. Two weeks into training, however, she fell and hit her head, and subsequent MRI scans revealed she had brain cancer. A surgery was scheduled to remove a walnut-sized tumor from the left side of her head.
Before the procedure, Laura wore her hair down to her waist. It was a source of pride for her, so she only allowed half of her head to be shaved. Only two months into her recovery, she was asked to volunteer for a special covert-op mission in Bosnia. She accepted and spent weeks rendering medical aid to war victims and disposing of dead bodies, mostly women. The experience left her with PTSD and night terrors.
Laura was medically discharged in 1996 and returned to school for nursing. But in 2004, she was diagnosed with another brain tumor and again underwent surgery, this time accompanied by radiation and chemotherapy. Since then, she’s suffered from memory loss, fatigue, and migraines. She is not able to work and lives on her VA and Social Security disability. And her hair has never grown back.
Laura’s baldness is a big source of pain for her. Life is difficult enough, even without the insecurity she feels in public. She’s received counseling, but she has always wanted this piece of her identity back. “As such, we are taking care of her to make sure that she receives proper care,” Dr. Keller’s office said.