Tonsillectomy Recovery – Here’s What to Expect


What You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy and Recovery

I wasn’t always this healthy. As a kid I ingested more penicillin than a corporate-raised chicken. I was in the doctor’s office several times each year with a sore throat. As the doctor or nurse peered into my mouth, the reaction was always the same: “Whoa, those are some big tonsils!” The diagnosis was usually tonsillitis, or strep throat. As the doctor wrote the prescription, he’d explain that years ago, tonsils like mine would have been removed, but, “these days,” we try to hang onto them. “These days,” were the 1970’s. I guess the tonsillectomy pendulum had swung back from the days when kids got their tonsils out because their brother was getting his out.

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Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case.

Tonsillectomy Recovery Forum___________________________________________________________________
As an adult I continued to suffer from frequent bouts of tonsillitis. It seemed that I caught every bug that passed through my house or workplace. I guess those big ugly tonsils were a nice home for those nasties. It wasn’t until my 40’s that I also became aware that I suffered from something called, Obstructive Sleep Apnea -a condition in which a person stops breathing while asleep. I snored often and would awake abruptly, gulping in big breaths. I felt tired most days. After raising four babies, I had come to accept fatigue as a normal part of life!
One day at a routine physical my doctor remarked about the number of episodes of strep throat and tonsillitis I’d had. We also talked about the sleep problems. While he didn’t formally diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, he suspected that I had it. He recommended a tonsillectomy, because of all the tonsil problems I’d had. As a bonus, I might find relief from the sleep apnea as well. If not, I’d undergo a sleep study. Forty four years old and father of four boys and a doctor finally said it: Those tonsils are doing you more harm than good! As much as I hated those tonsils, I was terrified at the thought of going under the knife. I started reading about tonsillectomy on the internet and talking to friends. That didn’t help. “My cousin knew a guy who got a tonsillectomy and bled to death.” “At your age, tonsillectomy is dangerous.” When I met with the ear, nose and throat specialist, (an otolaryngologist), he told me that the risks are the same for an adult undergoing tonsillectomy surgery as for a child, but the recovery is longer and more painful. He was right about that!

Deciding to get a Tonsillectomy

I scheduled the surgery for the day after Thanksgiving. A traditional day of feasting in the United States. If it was to be my last meal, I planned to make it a good one! As it turned out, I was so nervous and scared that I could hardly eat on that day. I was recently divorced and had shared placement of my four boys. So many people counted on me that I began to question my decision. What if I died on the table? How reckless to leave behind a family, simply to avoid frequent tonsillitis? My aunt, a registered nurse reassured me about how simple the surgery was, and how far anesthesiology had come. I had nothing to worry about. Aunt Kate’s reassurance helped, but I still wrote out some just-in-case instructions for my brother and hid them in my closet. I sheepishly told him where they were, just in case.

______________________________________________________________________________ “My tonsils were like a 400 pound gorilla on my back. I don’t miss them at all. Ever.” -from the forum ________________________________________________________________________________ 
I took a week off from work, asked my ex wife to take care of the boys that week, and asked my uncle to drive me to and from the hospital. (a requirement with anesthesia) That was about all the preparation I did. I was about to learn a lot!
  Surgery went fine. I awoke in recovery with a serving of Jell-o in front of me. (“Jelly,” to my British friends) The nurse said that I had to finish it before I could check out. I swallowed it with great relish. It was divine! I called my uncle and we were out of there. I felt ok. I told him thanks and not to worry. I’d be fine. I believed this. Aside from a couple visits, I spent the next ten days alone in misery. The pain set in after about 24 hours. Sleeping became my worst enemy. I’d wake up with my mouth dried out and my throat on fire. Oh my God. I was not prepared for this! I ran out of Popsicle’s on day three. I ran out of pain medicine on day five. The pain peaked on day seven. I broke down and cried in front of my brother on day eight- a combination of pain, drug induced depression, and sleep deprivation. Since then, I’ve read thousands of similar accounts on the tonsillectomy forum I created. It didn’t have to be so hard. If I’d known what I do now, I could have done so much to make my tonsillectomy recovery better. I hope to reach as many people as I can to help guide them through the tunnel. It has been my passion and taught me more about compassion and the amazing strength of the human spirit than any other life experience. When you shine a light for others, you also light your own path. In the pages at follow, I’ll share with you what I learned from my tonsillectomy experience and years of coaching others through tonsillectomy and recovery. More about tonsillectomy…read more

 Together we are stronger. Please share your questions, advice, fears, and concerns in the comment section below.

47 comments on “Tonsillectomy Recovery – Here’s What to Expect
  1. Christie says:

    Hi! I am 4 days post op. I have to admit I was absolutely terrified of the recovery. I did a lot of research before the tonsillectomy. Including this website. I ate ramen noodles same day as surgery. And since then I’ve eaten ramen, cream of wheat, chicken and dumplings, Popsicles, pudding and jello. I have not slowed down on eating. I read the sooner you eat the better. The first day I set an alarm for every 30 minutes to make sure I drank enough water. After that I set it for every hour. Even when I am sleeping. There have been a few times I needed ice and throat spray. I have 3 humidifiers in my bedroom with 2 fans. I keep my room closed and seldom come out. I have to say that I’m feeling really good. I have a sore throat and that’s it. Pain level is maybe a 3 on a scale 1-10. Of course I am not going to take any chances by over doing it. I plan on staying in my room for at least a week. It’s very lonely and depressing but I feel like it’s worth it. I hope that I can help with anyone’s recovery. I will keep you posted.
    I am a 35 year old female. Married with kids 18 months and 4 yrs old.

    • Angel says:

      @Christie- good for you! Keep eating good stuff! It worked for me at first, too. You will probably hit a day soon where all of a sudden, broth and warm drinks will be all you can handle, and you’ll be glad you ate some food with sustenance early on! Just be careful, as I hit a point on day 7 where I thought I was doing so good, I tried to eat “real food”! Don’t do that! Keep going with the mushy stuff! If I can save you the pain and setback, oh don’t try to eat real food too soon! Hang in there, as it could get worse. We’re all different. For many, days 4-7 are the calm before the storm! I’m on day 22. I still have throat and ear pain. This forum is wonderful for when you can’t sleep! Good luck and healthy recovery to you! :-)

  2. Sue Parker says:

    Has anyone fought depression since their tonsillectomy? My son is 35 married and father of two young children and was sick from May of this year 2014 with constant tonsillitis. Every two weeks he would be sick severely sick, antibiotics all summer finally the ENT said he needed a tonsillectomy. It was rough for him and his energy still hasn’t returned it’s now 7 weeks post surgery. He is really depressed and exhausted all the time. He hasn’t felt good since the surgery. Please if anyone has experienced this or has any advice please let me know. His doctor has prescribed an anti depressant but he had a reaction to it. Please any advice?

    • Yvonne says:

      I think depression is normall after being sick. Then having surgery where you can’t eat and you don’t sleep the pain is intense and you take pain Meds on an empty stomach. All your sick and vacation time is gone and your exaughsted doing the best you can to get through each day. I am on day 25 post op for tonsils and adenoids. I go to work and come home and go to bed. Not much energy.

      My recomendations after going through this.
      1. Stock up on jello, pudding (not chocolate it burned my throat) apples sauce, shaved ice. I lived on ice. Mashed potatoes, gravy and broth. This was what I ate for 18 days.
      2. Necessary medicine prescribed by doctor. Zofrain(anti nausea med) liquid pain med I had Tylenol with codine. I had to ask the doctor for something stronger on day six. Steroids and antibiotics for five days all liquid form. I also got lollipops with prescription numbing medicine. Also buy childrens livid ibuprofen.
      3. Take your medicine every three hours set and alarm. Rotate narcotic and then ibuprofen every three hours. Don’t miss a dose!
      4. Sleeping to long you will get dried out and the pain is really bad. I loved my ice chips.
      Having my tonsils out was awful. Living with infections was worse and I would do it again.

      Good luck.

    • Kirra H says:

      I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety last year and had my tonsils out yesterday….I’m still in hospital ATM and the pain is there but isn’t too bad ATM…can’t drink water but ice is AMAZING and I managed to get some custard and jelly down and some of a chicken sandwich….before the surgery I had fasted for 12 hours so I am sooooo hungry but your throat doesn’t really let you eat what you want :p I started having a down turn last night since I was alone in hospital but I tried to get some sleep, having a good support system is crucial for anyone with depression going through this :) I have my mum to look after me and that is making me feel heaps better inside :) good luck with it :)

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