LOMPOC, Calif. - A Santa Barbara County hair loss specialist is changing lives thanks to 3D printing technology.
We introduced you to Tami Mayorga and The Talk of the Town Hair Studio back in October and her newest client is navigating middle school with a heartbreaking condition.
“She’s had a really long hard journey but she’s persevered through it all, she’s got that smile she doesn’t give up,” said Maria Sanchez, a Lompoc mother.
Middle school can be tough.
“I was also called the wig girl because my friend told me that her friends were talking about me I was called the wig girl I guess,” said Christina Foley, a Lompoc Valley Middle School 7th Grader. Her voice falls to a murmur as she describes the bullying she’s endured.
“Like when I first meet people, I don’t really tell people like about my condition until I get really close to them. I’ve only told a couple of my friends,” said Christina.
All at a peak awkward phase in life.
“Dealing with this has been rough, you know ponytails to cover it emotional ups and downs,” said Maria.
So when something different, and scary happens, a tough journey gets even more trying.
“She was showering and I just happened to check her hair to make sure it was being conditioned and that’s when I first saw the bald spot. It was a bald spot right here and it freaked me out,” said Maria, her eyes widening to show concern.
That bald spot and trips to the doctor and dermatologist a year and a half ago, was the beginning of a journey no pre-teen or her family could have mentally prepared for.
“You feel truly helpless when you can’t help them. It’s just the hardest thing in the world because if I could switch places with her I would. Take my hair,” said Maria, her eyes welling up with tears.
12-year-old Chrystina Foley has Alopecia.
“It’s an autoimmune disorder where her immune system is attacking her hair follicles,” explained Maria. Often brought on by stress and anxiety, those emotions manifested when Chrystina’s parents divorced, similar to what Berit Ashby experienced.
Chrystina’s mother, Maria Sanchez, has been by her side in mama bear mode.
“I told her I couldn’t do some of the things she’s done. She’s had injections in her head, at one time she had like 20 and she lays there and takes it like a champ,” said Maria.
Completely blindsided by the diagnosis, haircuts hid the condition at first. No one in the family has ever dealt with something like this.
After countless treatments and medications, eventually, the now 7th grader shaved her head and started wearing wigs to school.
“They would always ask to see what was under there and I never wanted to show them,” said Christina, with defeat in her voice. “Why does she wear a wig, it’s kind of ugly and stuff,” she adds, recounting her classmate's taunting.
A good quality human hair wig can cost thousands of dollars and if you don’t know about the industry it’s hard to navigate.
“There’s things out there to help your children and then when you don’t have the money to do it, you’re like oh my God, I need to make this happen,” said Maria, letting out an exasperated sigh.
Things got so bad that Chrystina had to take a leave of absence from school.
“People assume things about me and then they just say rumors about me and they don’t get to know me well,” said Chrystina.
Maria says they have a great support system at Lompoc Valley Middle School and praised her dermatologist. The school’s principal says they’ve done everything they can to work with Chrystina and help spearhead a fundraiser.
“I don’t care what I need to do, that’s my child. She has something that she can’t control and it’s not her fault. Parents need to be aware, the bullying especially is not ok. They need to teach human kindness, I feel like that's something we’ve lost. As her mom I just feel helpless and if there’s anything I can do I’m going to go anywhere. We just got referred to UCLA we’re going to go,” said Maria.
When Chrystina saw our October special report on CNC technology, used by Tami Mayorga at The Talk of the Town Hair Studio, it gave her hope and boy, could she relate.
“It looks so cool, like, the reason that it wouldn’t come off that was really cool because wigs can come off easy that’s something that’s really cool because it won’t come off and people can’t pull it off,” said Chrystina.
We connected the Lompoc family with Tami, and Chrystina is now getting a custom 3D printed wig system. For free. Tami's clients made an anonymous donation of $1000 dollars for maintenance appointments.
The average price of a CNC system made in Italy can cost over $7,500.
“Watching her do the mold, watching her do the measurements, you can tell she’s doing something that she loves,” said Maria, talking about Tami’s passion and expertise in her field.
The first part of the process, the cranial prosthesis, was done earlier this month. It will be three to four months before its finished.
Chrystina got to pick the color, length everything. She’s going with a longer length light brown system because she used to have long hair and likes the way it looks.
“I’m so excited to see what it’s like once it’s on. It’s going to be amazing, I think it’s going to change her whole life. I think it’s going to bring all that confidence back to her, even though she still has it, I think she’ll be more confident in herself,” said Maria.
Tami says her heart went out to Chrystina. She too has a daughter and wants Chrystina to live a normal life because it’s hard enough being a teenager.
“Just truly, truly touched to my core that they want to do this for her. It’s not a cheap gift and that they want to do it and the type of donations that she’s bringing in for her I’m blown away,” said Maria.
Maria calls her daughter a rockstar and says she’s stronger than she thinks.
Chrystina just learned her real hair will probably never grow back but through it all, she’s learned a thing or two.
“Keep your head up and sometimes it’s OK to cry. Sometimes you just need a shoulder to cry on and you’re going to get through it, if you think you’re not, you really are,” said Chrystina.
Chrystina is looking forward to playing softball in the fall with a full head of human hair that she can shower and work out in.
The soon to be 13-year-old was just referred to UCLA to see if there are any advanced treatment options out there. Maria is going to make sure it happens.
Chrystina will have to go back and see Tami every three to four weeks for maintenance appointments and like many of us know, trips to the salon can add up.
If you would like to help support Chrystina’s fundraising efforts, you can find more information here.