Tonsillectomy | What to Expect in Recovery

What You Need to Know About Tonsillectomy and Recovery Day by Day

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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.

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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

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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. Streaming movies and television shows were my friends. 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

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367 thoughts on “Tonsillectomy | What to Expect in Recovery

  1. For years I was told my tonsils needed to come out but because of the added risk from having angioedema, I put off the tonsillectomy until the age of 25. Now as of yesterday (May 20th, 2015) I under went a tonsillectomy and an adenoidectomy. I have angioedema, which means I am prone to swelling because of extreme allergies. So my eyes, upper lip, tongue, and throat swell regularly as well as I frequently get hives. On top of the those symptoms angioedema as causes me to have asthma. I was suppose to have surgery on May 13th but the anesthesiologist cancelled just before the surgery (I mean right before I had my iv in and was ready to go back for surgery). The anesthesiologist was uncomfortable witb doing the surgery because my the surgery could trigger a flare up in my angioedema and it was extra risky because of the surgery site being my airways. So a week later and a little more game planning on there end, I was back for surgery. They pretreated for my angioedema as a precautionary and off to have surgery. I had a tonsillectomy done as well as an adenoidectomy. Typically when you become an adult your adenoids shrink and eventually disappear. In some cases they do not which can result in added issues. To make matters more complicated I have several drug allergies such as penicillin, amoxicillin, erythromycin, ranitadine, and morphine. Ranitadine commonly found in the heartburn medicine Zantac is also a treatment for angioedema which I cannot take unfortunately. Morphine causes me to stop breathi g, which is a pretty common side effect. So after I woke up from surgery I was still pretty out of it from anesthesia and dilaudid I urinated on myself… not as embarrassed about it as I probably should be but oh well. Since I have angioedema I had to stay the night… I am actually still in the hospital as I type this. I am also suppose to have someone with me constantly for the next 2 days because of the added swelling risk. I am not sure if anyone else ad an adenoidectomy along with their tonsilectomy but I can honestly say the adenoidectomy is the only relief I feel right now. For as long as I can remember I struggled to breath out of my nose and I have always souned nasally (even when I was not sick). The tonsillectomy though is pretty painfully. I cannot lay back because my uvula is enlarged (normal swelling) so sitting up is the most comfortable breathing wise. I have been drinking a ton of ice water and apple juice which the colder it is the more relief you will feel. I don’t think the ice pack under the chin is reallt helping all the much but I keep it there. Sleeping is hard but when I do doze off it is for a short period of time and I wake up with dry mouth and more pain than before I fell asleep.I cannot wait to be release. I will be using a humidifier as another person mentioned in there comment. I would not have thought about it myself. Day 1 is complete and I can honestly say it was not that bad. It feels like just a bad sore throat nothing major but that I assure you is just the percocet talking. I was told it will get better than get worse once the scabs fall off. I feel prepared mentally for the pain because I know it is coming. Since surgery the nurses have me on percocet, benedryl, and a steriod. And I am going home with an antibiotic, liquid pain meds, and a pain pill. Keep you guys posted on how the following days go. I have popcicles, a huge bag of ice, and sherbet waiting for me when I get home. My dad (such a worrier) took the day off to hang with me at my place when I am release later. Here’s to hoping you all had a speedy recovery, I have a speedy recorvery, as well as everyone in the futuer have a speedy recovery.

  2. it is normal for things to get worse before they get better – she should turn a corner within the next few days.

    Until then I suggest:
    – a nice hot water bottle (quite comforting to sleep on)
    – some lovely new pyjamas/a nice snuggly blanket or dressing gown to wrap herself up in
    – a box set of something to distract her

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