Paper Dolls for Boys

Raising 2 crafty boys and thrifting every chance I get.

Tonsil Hell and Beyond… July 6, 2010

I am sick of thinking & talking about my tonsils.  It’s all slightly embarrassing.  Getting ones tonsils out conjures up images of cute little kids with slightly sad faces that light up with each fresh dish of ice cream.  It’s a whole different game for adults.  If you are a parent whose child is getting their tonsils out,  stop reading.  It’s not the same.  You’re doing a good thing getting your kid’s tonsils out while they are still young and ever so resilient.  This guide is for adult tonsillectomy so don’t freak yourself out by reading any further.  Thank you, come again!

I should start by saying I am not a doctor nor do I play one on TV so this is just advice from me based on my own recent experience.   I am hoping this can be a resource for those who are about to have or love someone who has undergone the removal of those little bags of infected throat blockage.  Pleasant.

I felt unprepared for the process, for the pain.  Although in retrospect I do remember my doctor saying, “In some ways it’s easier to get shot because you fix the wound and it heals, gets better and better each day.  Not so with a tonsillectomy.  It progressively feels worse.”  He was not lying and yet still I did not feel prepared.  Lovely doctor, horrible procedure.

I gave birth to my 2 boys via c-section.  I didn’t take any meds post surgery because I was a nut with worry about it in my breastmilk.  So I kind of thought I had this.  I was most worried about going under with general anesthesia and figured once I came out of that, I was through the rough part.  Again, so wrong.

First off, don’t Google.   Too late I suppose because here you are.  It’s true to say that everyone’s experience is different and that bodies heal differently.  I think it’s also true to say that people romanticize or just forget so it wasn’t helpful to me to read people saying, “I was eating barbecued ribs the 3rd day!” or hear people (and by people I mean my dear brother) say, “By the 2nd day I was like screw it, I ate fried and breaded Japanese porkkatsu.”  edit to add:  My mother reminds me that he got his tonsils out in Thailand and DID stay in the hospital for 4 days after the surgery.  Apples and Oranges. I did not eat anything except popsicles for 6 days.  If you know me, you are picking up that going without food is unprecedented.

Make sure you have help.  I asked my mother to come up rather last minute and am so grateful she was able to be there for me.  Some of my most comforting moments were when she brought me a cold cloth (super mom trick that works in any number of circumstances that I happily use with my own kids).   She initially booked a ticket, staying a week, but had to extend when it became obvious that I was going to need help beyond day 7.  I really think it’s rather inhumane that this is a day surgery.  A decision that I think has less to do with patient needs than with insurance but I’m not bitter.

This link was very helpful:  Adult Tonsillectomy – Guide for Friends and Family.   “Just when you think your loved one is on the mend (and believe me, they’ll think so too!) the scabs start to come off. The pain this causes pretty much pushes the patient to and beyond their pain threshold. The pain is not only in the throat, but in the ears – and is EXTREMELY painful…”  So true, so true.  This helped my mom give me and my slight bitchiness a break.  The visual, for her, of the scabs was enough to allow her to forgive my occasional attitude.  Given all with my eyes at this point because I still could not speak.   It’s been 2 & 1/2 weeks and my voice is still not back to normal.  Another helpful hint – I used a text aloud app on my iphone as a “voice” for a week or so there.  It’s hard to be when someone bitches through an artificial electronic voice.  “Bring me a another damn popsicle now.”

In terms of food, you’ll definitely be thinking about it.  I watched Food Network like a crazy person and drew up an elaborate list of dishes to make when I was able.  And last night I crossed off,  Palak Paneer and Coriander and Coconut Fish.  But in terms of eating post surgery I really didn’t.   I threw up Ensure on day 3 so I just went without.  If you can keep down something nutritious, you’ll probably heal faster than me.   The best tip was given to my mom, via FB, was Cheese Puffs.  In addition to getting your tonsils out, I think they kind of break your tongue.  I could (still) feel exactly where they clamped down my tongue for the surgery and my poor little guy still feels swollen and sore.  Eating was hard.  So initially taking tiny little bits of cheese puffs was the answer.  Tip – hit the health food store for a huge variety of puffs, including Veggie Booty.  It was good to have variety, I think I managed to try 10 or 11 different kinds, rejecting some but happy for the variety at that point.  I do not like popsicles, I don’t remember ever liking them but suck them down I did.  It helped to have one to get the horrible taste of the medicine down.  Oh the horrid taste of the medicine.  I am not a big medicine taker, if I can get away with not taking I don’t.  But I was swilling this crap down.  My hazy life was measured in 6 hour increments.  I was not prepared for how blurry it made my vision.  I could watch tv, thank goodness but after day 3 and I hit stage 2 of recovery, I could not text, type or read without feeling super nauseous.

The irony of it all is that I am kind of addicted to Slurpees, icees, coolatas, slushys.  Whatever you call them, I like them.  Kind and loving friends and a family brought me many a cup but they were too too sugary and sugar seemed to irritate my throat as much as citrus.  I could do popsicles but that was the sugar level I could take.

In terms of pain – ice. Ice helped tremendously, particularly when the pain went into my ears.  Having an ice pack along my throat and ears helped.  Stock your freezer.  And be on top of the meds, in an effort to take them before it hurts too bad.  It’s going to hurt worse when you wake up because you weren’t swallowing while you were asleep.  Get a humidifier and set it up near your upright sleeping self.  If it doesn’t help, it makes others feel like they are helping by changing the water.  Who knows!

This is what I wish someone had done for me:  I am taking you firmly by the shoulders, looking you in the eyes and telling you, “This is going to be some intense pain.  It will hurt but you will get through it, and somewhere down the line, be glad you did it.” (I’m not there yet myself)  Hope it helps.


18 Responses to “Tonsil Hell and Beyond…”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I too had my tonsils out as an adult (in my 20s during uni holidays while my flatmate was off travelling the world just to add to the pain) and yes I have to agree worst pain in the world. I still remember (and this is almost 20 years later) bursting into tears as my family tucked in to roast chicken dinner with the works (my favourite) in front of me while I couldnt even swallow my own spit. and the ear pain and the scabs was AGONY

    But I have to say once the healing saga over (oh thank you GOD) it was nice to not have tonsillitis every 2 weeks or so for 2 weeks at a time then the bronchitis on top of that etc ie health a LOT better after losing them

    so I think it is a matter of (relatively) short term pain for long term gain

    I really hope it is not so bad for kids as my little guy (3) is up for a tonsillectomy sooner rather than later. i have been avoiding it each time the GP raises the issue as i dont want to put him through what I wnet through but maybe it is better/easier for kids? Or maybe they just cant articulate it???

    • It IS totally easier for children. I keep thinking of the time my then 3 year old fell down the steps, huge steep steps, and came up without a bump, bruise or scratch. If I had taken the same tumble I would have been in traction. Again, I’m no doctor but I keep thinking of that as a way to understand how it HAS to be different/easier for kids to get the surgery.

      Good luck to your little one!

  2. Michele Says:

    sorry that wasnt meant to be anon just hit the button before completing the form – thats me above with my ramble about my experience of adult tonsillectomy

    Hope your healing continues and you are 110% again soon

  3. lexi Says:

    Oh. My. Goodness. Tracey that sounds like – I don’t know – HIDEOUS! My goodness, no wonder you’ve been so sad! No wonder you’ve had so much pain! It’s horrible! I hope you are feeling SO much better. Worlds better. That is one stinkin’ operation. What’s your postal address? I feel it is my duty as your friend to send you something exciting all the way from Oztralya. x Please please please feel better soon.

  4. E.K. Says:

    Holy hell, my child! I wondered where you were but I imagined an exotic beach vacation or perhaps off competing in a mini golf tournament. You poor thing! It sounds like absolute torture and then some. You poor thing! (Did I say that already? ) Just the thought of scabs coming off is enough to make me want to lose it. I had no idea that it is so hard on adults. I’ve resisted my doctor’s advice to get mine out only because I hate the smell of hospitals – but now, I have a LEGIT reason. You have done a fantastic public service announcement here.

    If it makes you feel any better, I have heard that “those little bags of infected throat blockage” attract alien radio waves thus making it easier for them to find us and insert their probes and do their bidding with our bodies. That said, sounds like you’ve been through worse. Bless your heart.

  5. Sarah Says:

    Yikes! Hope you are feeling 100%!

    I got my tonsils out when I was 16 and it was awful: painful plus boring as I spent a chunk of my summer break laying on the floor with my 13 year old sister who had hers out at the same time. We couldn’t talk for days and couldn’t eat and just lolled around feeling awful and growing skinny. I remember just being so hungry that I ate a milkshake with a grilled cheese sandwich and fries and it ripped some stitches out or scabs off or something…

  6. Alexis Says:

    I had no idea that getting your tonsils out was quite so horrible! It was not like that on the Brady Bunch. I hope you are all better very soon!

  7. Sharon Says:

    i got to the part about the scabs coming off and clapped my hand over my mouth in horror. The whole experience sounds TRULY AWFUL. A very good argument for getting it done early in life if possible. Did they have any estimates on how long it would take to feel totally normal?

  8. I think “don’t google medical stuff” is a good rule to live by.

  9. Looking back I really must say I was wrong…It was Katsudon!

  10. Visty Says:

    I don’t remember much of getting mine out when I was 4, except the nurses holding me down to give me shots in my thighs. (??) But I did have, at one point in my adult life, an infection in my throat that made me feel as though I might lose my ability to speak forever. I walked around with tears in my eyes, and every half hour or so, I’d forget myself and swallow, and then cry and cry. And I bet yours is so much worse!

    I’m glad you’re on the mend.

  11. So glad you are coming out on the other side of this ordeal. Hope you continue to feel better. Surgery is no fun at any age! It is so true about staying ahead of the pain with the meds. I found that out the hard way too. Glad your mom was able to come and help out. I enjoyed her visit Wednesday…sure made me feel better!

  12. Anonymous Says:

    You definitely went through all the horrible stages of your website link, Adult Tonsillectomy – Guide for Friends and Family!
    And who would have ever guessed that cheese puffs would be the saving grace! You SHOULD have been in the hospital so they could have kept you dehydrated! We should start a movement! So very happy that you are better; we were all so concerned. The Up-side: Chuckie Cheese and The Green Corner with the boys! Can’t wait to see you feeling all better.

  13. Complete Stranger Says:

    I mean hydrated; not dehydrated!

    • Complete Stranger Says:

      I mean Greek Corner! Not Green Corner and we have a NEW Greek place here! Hope your throat is all better so you can enjoy.

  14. Lia Says:

    Holy crap! That sounds horrid! I’m not sure I could handle that. So glad you’re feeling better, though. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

  15. Whoever thinks that children who have their tonsils taken out don’t experience that much pain are not parents. My son just had his tonsils and adenoids out a week and a half ago, and he suffered from so much swelling and pain that he had to be hospitalized the day after with IV fluids, steroids, antibiotics and morphine.

    Getting your tonsils out no matter your age is very painful and people should know about it, even though the outcome will be very positive. Thanks for sharing your experience so people are ready. Preparation is the key!

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