Tonsillectomies/Adenoidectomies – The Real Story
Day 1 – Surgery Day
You think your kid is going in for a routine procedure, barely considered surgery since it’s outpatient and they go home the same day. Staff, nurses, doctors all say reassuring things like, “It’ll be over before you know it”, “It won’t be so bad”, and my favorite, “You’re young, you’ll bounce right back.” So let’s get one thing straight, they’re sugar coating it! They’re sugar coating, chocolate glazing, and sprinkling the shit over what you’re really in for. My daughter is young, yes, but in the world of tonsillectomies, not so much. Children under the age of ten bounce back considerably faster than a teenager, seventeen years old.
Both my daughter and I went through this “procedure” with rose colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong, we love our doctor, and the staff was great, but a little cheat sheet, crystal ball, a counseling nurse, or even a fortune cookie saying, “This will suck!” would have been much appreciated.
So, what are you really in for? Good question! And I plan to be as blunt as possible with my answer because look at it this way, if you go in thinking the worst, it will be a bonus if you have an easier experience.
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #1 – Your child will wake up with the flames of hell in his or her throat!
Nothing can prepare a parent to see their child in pain. My girl is no stranger to pain after having had a broken tailbone that required surgery, but the pain from her tonsillectomy was so severe she thrashed to escape the sensation. She vibrated in agony and then found out that they wanted her to swallow…yes, swallow her pain meds. Ouch!
And bonus…before a tonsillectomy they put you on a steroid and antibiotics. They expect you to finish those pills…after the surgery.
At this point, everything hurts, sitting still, lying down, swallowing, hell, even breathing. Now in all fairness, maybe others escape the breathing pain. My daughter also had a deviated septum fixed and ESS sinus surgery at the same time. She suffered surprisingly little discomfort from these though, but they did make it so she had no other option than breathing through her mouth.
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #2 – Keeping track of the meds…oye!
Your child will need pain meds on time. There’s not even a ten minute window folks. Chances are after anesthesia and with a narcotic pain reliever your child will be so out of it they will need constant assistance and supervision taking their meds and that means in the middle of the night too. And another bonus…the combination of grogginess, meds, and exhaustion makes walking unassisted difficult.
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #3 – Popsicles are fun for about 24 hours. After that they earn a stink eye glare whenever mentioned.
After the first 24 hours my daughter saw the box of popsicles and on the backside are ads for other ice cream and Popsicle products the company sells. She got excited thinking that this wasn’t a box of popsicles, but instead was fudge pops. Not sure she’s forgiven me yet for crushing her dreams.
We adopted a cycle. Popsicles before medicine, after medicine, when she woke up, before sleeping, you get the drift.
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #4 – Liquid diet for 10 days – This could happen to you!
No one really thinks about how horrible this truly is until they are about twenty four hours in. We were advised to avoid dairy, for a while and to only give her liquids. Those liquids could be at the most room temperature, but preferably cold. Dairy is not a great idea. I don’t really understand all the excitement about ice cream after. Ice cream creates mucus, mucus gets caught in the throat, the throat then has to be cleared by coughing which is bad, bad, bad for raw tonsil areas.
Starvation sets in after about 48 hours. My daughter was reduced to searching the internet for pictures of food and every few minutes would gesture to me, to show me pictures of pies, cakes, pasta, all the things she couldn’t have for weeks because of course, once the liquid diet is over, you don’t get to switch to a regular diet. You graduate to soft foods. Let down, I know!
Funny thing, my daughter chose to be a vegetarian a few years ago. I told her that I expected her to help find recipes for me to make. She found one. 48 hours after her tonsillectomy, she hands me a stack of recipes she’s neatly written out. She can’t speak, but I get the point. Who knew the way to motivate is through starvation!
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #5 – Just because things look good on day 3, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear!
On day four, we ended up in the ER. My girl’s blood pressure dropped despite all the salty liquids we gave her. She had done remarkably well hydrating herself with a good 80oz. or more of water per day on top of the dreaded popsicles, broth, Ensure, juices, etc.
The ER gave her fluids via IV, which she hated by the way, to bring up her BP. We drove home and settled in for the night. This lasted for five hours. In the middle of the night she spiked a fever and became nauseous. What’s the last thing you want to do with a raw throat? Enough said.
We called the doctor and had to take her in. He looked at her and said, “You are going to get better. I assure you! Just not today…” We left with an anti-nausea medicine and of course because she started vomiting, the medicine was in suppository form. I’m beyond grateful that with instruction, she was able to take care of that herself. Some things just aren’t cool for a mother and her almost adult daughter to experience. Suppositories is one of them!
With the new meds, we were hopeful that maybe we would all sleep through the night for the first time since this all began…and we did. However, we woke up to a banging noise only to find our daughter went to the bathroom and did not have the energy to get back to bed. She slithered to the floor and banged on any surface she could to wake us all up.
Tonsillectomy Tidbit #6 – Do not transition to food, even soft food, too soon!
Seven days in, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t cook or bring in take out and watch her look at the food longingly so I modified the doctor’s orders. I made her super soft ramen noodles. I let them soak up all the broth. I let them cool to room temperature and she looked at me like I served her a gourmet meal. So all was good right? Wrong! Eating food only made her want to eat more food. She was never satisfied then. The smidgen of ramen I gave her suddenly energized her and woke up her inner persistent nag, previously locked in some deep dungeon under pain, illness, and exhaustion. She now had the energy to beg incessantly to push it further and further, trying to get me to give in at every turn.
The next day, I did just that. I made her super soft mashed potatoes. I decided to whip them in a food processor to make them super smooth and that of course earned a look of disdain from my child who wanted mashed, not whipped potatoes. She also expressed her disappointment that I thinned them so much. Apparently, she no longer suffered enough from hunger to be grateful for what she had. The first few bites seemed hard for her to get down. Here I thought I was being helpful and told her to sip water after each bite to avoid choking, hoping her tombstone wouldn’t read, “Death by potatoes.” She ignored me…another sign of recovery!
She didn’t finish her portion because her throat got sore and she wasn’t due for pain medicine for another two hours. She asked me what she should do. I told her grab a Popsicle to cool down her throat.
She adopted the glare and pressed her lips tight together just as she had when she was five and I came at her with liquid medicine.