Dirt don't hurt...but tonsillectomies do: My Tonsillectomy Story

This is not your typical post. This is the post meant for the person who late at night types "tonsillectomy story" into the Google window and really wants to know what another person went through.

Or it's also for my mother, who I know will read the whole thing...

So at the age of 33 I got my tonsils out. It was time, my doctor said, after having case after case of strep throat for the previous three years. I was on so many antibiotics that by the end they had to give me more than double the normal dose just to ward off infections.

I had it done on a Tuesday morning, bright and early. I told the doctors I'd be a mess and I wasn't laying in the hospital bed 10 minutes before I started weeping, scared of what was to come. I have had three major surgeries in the past (and three lovely kids to show for them) and each one came with some sort of complications. Good endings, but complications. I'm just prone to being special, I guess.

The surgery itself was a breeze. I went nighty-night and woke up attempting to ask my husband about his day at work before I realized that a)he wasn't there and b)I couldn't talk. Eventually he came in and told me that the surgeon said the procedure went fine. My tonsils were full of debris (ewwwwwwwww) and holes, and that my adenoids had seen a lot of infection. This is special because as an adult, you shouldn't have adenoids -- you're supposed to grow out of them. Lucky me, lucky me.

Day one was pretty much a fog. My tip for anyone going through this is to remember not to slug your first dose of liquid pain meds like it's tequila. It will hurt really, really bad. I learned throughout the next 2 weeks of recovery, to SIP the meds along with water, mix them up in your mouth, and take little swallows. Trust me, sounds gross but it got me through.

Day two was a disaster. Drainage from the surgery made me so nauseous I couldn't take my pain meds. Or if I did, they'd come right back up. Puking after throat surgery is rates very high on the unpleasant scale. I don't recommend it. I do recommend asking for anti-nausea medicine. It saved me.

Day three through seven sucked more than I thought it ever would. Not only does your throat hurt, but your tongue will feel like someone has sliced it along both sides with a knife. Your ears will feel like someone took a hot metal rod and shoved it from your ear all the way to your throat. Your teeth will hurt-- I don't know how, but mine ached like I just had them all extracted.

And so some tips for the pain:
-Keep up on your pain meds. This is more crucial than you could ever imagine.
-Keep hydrated. I lived on ice chips for the first week. If your throat dries out, it's a death wish.
-Ice. I even slept -- literally-- with ice packs.
-Sleeping is dreadful, horrible, terrible. You can't sleep on your back because your swollen tongue will choke you. I found it best to sleep on your side, on an ice pack, on two pillows.

Here are some things that happened to me that I hope don't happen to you:
-Weight loss. Over the recovery I lost almost 10% of my body weight. The food thing is really hard, and you will learn to hate Jello and Popsicles like you wouldn't believe. It will be a long time before I ever slurp chicken broth, too. Blech.
-Thrush. Disgusting, but it's a yeast infection in your mouth caused by antibiotics and lack of swallowing. Your tongue and roof of your mouth will be so nasty you won't even want to look at it. Just a thick white coating. The good news is that there was no pain-- or if there was, the handy pain meds never let me know. This bit of unhappiness is taken care of by a medicine that is a "swish and swallow" kind of stuff that tastes like, and I wish I was exaggerating, vomit with a dirt chaser. Seven lovely days of it.
-Bleeding. Nothing like sitting at your kids' piano lessons and having to barge in on the teacher because blood is flowing from your mouth. Scabs fall off and occasionally expose a blood vessel. If you are so lucky, you too will have blood pouring from your throat. It is another quite unpleasant thing I went through. It did, however, earn me my first trip to the ER. If this happens to you, call your doc asap. (I survived. My bleeding stopped.)
-Loss of taste. Once I started feeling semi-human and could bare to swallow something semi-solid, I realized that everything I ate tasted terrible. Very bitter, and its almost it "feels" bitter but has no taste at all. Very strange. Diet Coke was the absolute worst. Coffee tasted like I was licking a rusty, used ash tray. (Nice visual, eh?) I read that this heals over time, that your taste buds can be crushed during surgery. I am still waiting. Food smells so good now, but tastes so bitter it's not worth eating.

So that's the negative side of things. Or most of them.

The positive side is that tomorrow will be two weeks since my surgery. I am pretty much fully functioning, although it hurts to yawn and I still can't rip roaring yell at my kids. I have faith that this will be good in the long run, that I'll stay healthier after having gone through all of this.

The other positive side is that I have never felt so loved in my entire life. Friends and acquaintances sending cards, dropping off food for my family. It was wonderful to be surrounded by so many caring people and I am thankful for each and every one!

And that's it-- the short version, believe it or not. If you're reading this because you're headed in soon, I wish you well. Don't be scared. There are tons of people who don't have any of these problems and have a super smooth recovery. But if you're one of the lucky ones like me, know that you can get through it with a little help from your friends, a few ice packs, and of course, Vicodin.


robin said…
Jeff went through this as an adult too -- and he totally empathizes with your story. but here's his personal kicker: our air conditioning went out the day he came home from the hospital. And it was Phoenix. In the summer. And he had all of your symptoms and issues. Then he staggered around the house and set the laundry room on fire. Then I took him to a hotel.

Glad you are healing...and love to you.

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