It’s the first time the eyebrow transplant was performed in Waikato and has allowed the 42-year-old Melville rugby stalwart the chance to play both sides of the footy field with confidence.
“It’s mainly so I don’t have to stay on the left hand side of the rugby field,” said Komene with a laugh. “So I don’t get blindsided in a tackle.”
All jokes aside, Komene has been wearing an eye patch since a car crash in Hokianga, 25 years ago, left him with long-term scarring.
Several operations since then had worked a treat but he was still left with a flap of skin from a graft with no hair follicles.
The flap caused his eyelashes to irritate his eye and he had just half of his left eyebrow.
“Over the years I just dealt with it,” he said. “You do become the centre of attention, especially when you go to the supermarket, with little kids yelling out to their parents but that’s fine.”
A Hurricanes supporter, Komene’s passion for rugby is clear – the green and red of his Melville Rugby and Sports Club jacket hung in his Braemar Hospital suite prior to his surgery.
“It hasn’t hindered me in doing day-to-day stuff, playing rugby and riding my motorbike.”
The two procedures would lift the irritant clear of his eye and the second required individual hair follicles to be removed from the back of his head with a “drill and punch” and transplanted to his brow.
But the transplanted follicles weren’t made for eyebrows – they would grow as if they were still on his head and required regular trimming.
“Every time I shave my head I’ll do that,” he said. It’s just one extra stroke.”
He took the procedure in his stride but said his family might have to get used to it.
“The only strange part might be for my partner and kids because they’ve only known me with the eye patch,” said Komene.
“If anything, it’s affecting them more than anything else.”
Braemar Hospital plastic surgeon Dr Bulent Yaprak said the eyebrow was an important part of the human face and any discrepancies were noticeable.
“It will hopefully look natural and it will be real hair,” said Yaprak.
“Having a more natural looking eyebrow will be some addition to his self image.”
Hair follicles were painstakingly harvested with the drill and a punch – only 0.7mm in diameter – and inserted into slit-holes, cut with a blade into the skin of Komene’s brow.
“We’ll insert them in one-by-one, obeying the direction of the other eyebrow.”
Improvement was possible, said Yaprak but it could take time for Komene to get used to his new eyebrow.
He had to expect the hair to fall out but they would grow back again within 9 months.
“It’s a step towards more normal,” he said.