Levi Tells a Tonsillectomy Success Story
So for about 12 years I’ve had tonsil stones, and they have only gotten worse. Unlike most people who get their tonsils removed, my tonsils were small, and getting smaller because the crypts were constantly getting deeper. When my ENT agreed to remove them, I was ecstatic, but as I read up on people’s tonsillectomy stories, I started getting horrified. The horror stories of bleeding and severe pain were enough to make me terrified to even have the surgery, and I was very nervous that I would not be better in two weeks (I had MAJOR plans exactly 14 days after the surgery day that I would’ve been devastated to miss), but thankfully that was far from the case.
Cold stuff felt significantly better on my throat -Eggs are an EXCELLENT source of protein, which was a huge help with tissue regeneration -Drink. I cannot stress this enough. You should ALWAYS be drinking -You will probably lose a lot of weight. I was 5’9″ and 108 pounds the day of surgery, obviously extremely underweight, and even I lost nine pounds by Day 8 -The anesthesia may make you vomit, so just be prepared for that possibility -For the first few days, take the pain pills regardless of whether you think you need them What to expect the day of surgery: You will likely be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your surgery. I arrived at the surgery center at 8:00 am, my appointment time, and was called back immediately. They weighed me, took my blood pressure, and asked me to change into a hospital gown. I was allowed to keep on my boxers, and they gave me socks to wear. They put in my IV, gave me an anti-nausea pill, and made me drink liquid pain medicine (lidocaine I believe; it was repulsive). They then rolled me into the OR, and I had to do a little shimmy from the bed to the operating table. The anesthetist put a mask over my face, giving me oxygen. The anesthesiologist then put in the anesthesia (they didn’t warn me, but I’m not sure if that’s normal). You feel woozy for a few seconds, then you’re knocked out. When I woke up, I was able to speak. I kept feeling like there was a glob of mucus in the back of my throat, but whenever I tried to “hock” it, it wouldn’t move…? (I’ll come back to this.)
I had a serious fear of waking up from anesthesia and saying something that I should not have said. Thankfully, as soon as I woke up, I was completely aware of what I was saying. I was loopy and saying some silly things (flirting with my 40-year-old female nurse and telling the male nurse he looked like a pirate, but in a good way) but all around I was completely in control of what I was saying, which was a relief. They gave me a Popsicle and asked my pain level, which I said was a 4. They gave me pain med’s until my pain level was a 1 (which didn’t take long) and then my mom came back. She helped me get dressed, and then they rolled me in a wheelchair to the car. I fell asleep in the car as we went to the pharmacy to pick up my medicine: Percocet for the pain and Prednisone for the inflammation. My recovery really only lasted 9 days, if that:
Drugged Out Era: Days 1-3 –
I spent most of these days asleep and in rather minimal pain Tense & Sleepless Era: Days 4-6 – I spent these days being extremely tight and tense, trying to wean off my medicine, meaning I was awake most of the day, and being in the most pain of the process (still pretty minimal though 🙂 ), causing me to not be able to sleep at night either. Stir Crazy & Repulsive Era: Days 7-9 – I spent these days feeling nearly back to normal and ready to return to life, but one thing was stopping me: my throat was too disgusting to be around civilization. Day 1 (the same day of surgery): With the meds, the pain level on this day was very manageable – a consistent 3-4 – really no worse than a bad sore throat that accompanies a cold. The Prednisone tasted terrible, but it was tolerable. I ate pretty exclusively Philly swirl cups from the store and drank a TON of water. I cannot stress just how important it is that you DRINK. A. TON. For me, cold stuff felt better almost the entire time. (I didn’t drink anything warm until Day 6.) HOWEVER, Day 1 had one terrible factor: …anesthesia. I (thankfully) have never had anesthesia before. I knew it could cause nausea, but between the nausea medicine they gave me and my ironclad stomach, I was not worried. I should have been. I vomited… A LOT. Four sessions, each time heaving until my stomach was completely empty. I hadn’t thrown up in over ten years, and man did I forget how unpleasant it is, especially having just had your throat cut open. However, because all that I had consumed (with the exception of one egg) had melted into liquid, it really wasn’t as painful as it seems like it would be. By the end of the night, I was already ready for real food, so my mom finely scrambled an egg, which I, of course, threw up in about half an hour. I was able to shower that night. For whatever reason, I was also able to talk throughout the entire recovery. It hurt a bit, but I never needed a dry erase board/pen and paper to communicate. It was then that I looked in my throat for the first time, and I was startled, not by my tonsils (or lack thereof), but my uvula. It was swollen so extremely that a hefty portion of it was resting in a pool of gelatinous flesh on the back of my tongue. THAT was the “mucus” I felt in my throat, and THAT is why it didn’t come up. Thankfully this didn’t cause any pain, but it did make swallowing and breathing very difficult at times. This was the first time I’ve snored, and it was quite the symphony. I even remembered earlier to back in the car saying to my mom, “It’s hard to swallow. It’s not like it hurts too bad, but it’s just hard to make myself swallow.” With the help of the Prednisone, this swelling was heavily reduced by Day 4 and completely gone by Day 6 (though I only took the Prednisone for the first 3 days, so I’m not sure how much of a role it actually played). I had a momentary breakdown after the fourth time I vomited, and I remember telling my mom in my “muffled-by-my-own-uvula” voice how discouraged I was because I had worked so hard that first day to eat and drink like they told me to to stay hydrated and nourished, and I couldn’t even keep any of it down. That night, my mom graciously woke me up every 3 hours (and every 4 for Prednisone) with a pain pill and a fresh cup of ice water. Having never taken more than a children’s aspirin maybe four times in my life, the Percocet did quite a number on me, so I had no trouble sleeping that first night.
Day 2: Day 2’s pain was only a 2-3, really only hurting when I swallowed or spoke. I had my first visitors this day (I made it very clear that I didn’t want visitors Day 1), but the pain medicine had me asleep about half of the day. By now the anesthesia had worn off, so I was over my spewing phase. I was able to shower that morning and ate as much ice cream, eggs, and Philly swirls as I could. Everything I had read had made it so clear that I needed to eat and drink whenever possible, so like a good little patient, I did. Like Day 1, I was asleep most of the time from the pain medicine. Day 3: Day 3 was another good day, and by this time I was feeling suspiciously optimistic. Pain was a 1 following a pill, then crept up to a 4 as I got closer and closer to due for another pill. I would sleep for about an hour ten to fifteen minutes after taking a pill, then spend the next 2 hours awake and in mild pain, usually wasting time on my phone (I learned all the human bones, about 100 names of saltwater fish, how to play Mancala, and standard CBC, SuperChem, and T4 numbers for dogs and cats, so that was a nice plus).
Day 3 was sort of my golden day. I was the perfect level of aware, not completely knocked out like the days before, but still able to take considerable naps. By this night, my mom had stopped waking me up in the night for meds, hoping I would sleep through the night, but I didn’t, leading us into the second era. Day 4: The beginning of the Tense & Sleepless Era, named wonderfully appropriately because during this time, my neck got incredibly stiff, and I could not stay asleep at night.
The pain during Day 4 was usually about a 3-4, every now and then jumping to a 5 the half hour before I was due another pill. This was also because by this time I had stretched my pills to every four hours, in fear of running out of them when my scabs fell off. Everything I had read said that the scabs falling off was the worst part, to some women, worse than labor, and these days were approaching, usually falling on days 6-8. Spoiler alert: NOPE. I saved my pills, constantly telling myself, “It’s only going to get worse, so you need to save them.” This was the biggest mistake I made. I still have a handful of Percocet in my room that I never took, and I just laughed as I put them away, thinking about how much easier they would’ve made these days. During these days, the daytime was pretty uneventful. I ate a metric ton of eggs, drank Lake Michigan, and napped a couple hours in total. When nighttime came around, I began to feel worse. It was not my throat that hurt though; it was everything else. I had a general feeling of malaise. My uvula was still slightly swollen, my tongue was marred to shreds from chewing on it the first couple of nights, my teeth were aching, and my neck was killing me… But my throat. My throat was fine. My parents would ask for my pain level, and I’d say 3-5, but make sure to preface that my throat was only a 2. I went to sleep about 20 minutes after taking a pill (I say as if my body gave me any choice. Those pills knocked me out.)
Like clockwork though, I woke up at 3 in pain. I would go take a pill, but, and I cannot explain this to any degree, in the middle of the night, my pain pills took FOREVER to kick in. I was awake from 3-4:30, nearly on the dot, days 4-6. Day 5: Ah, Day 5, the day that most people’s scabs start to come off. Well, mine just didn’t. On Day 5, my scabs were still a stubborn, milky green appearing to have the consistency of wet spackle. That morning, I had hiccups. This was probably the worst pain that I felt in my throat, each hiccup being about a 6. Instinctively, I reached for the peanut butter, the one foolproof cure for hiccups for me, and took a spoonful. R.I.P. I now pronounce myself dead. I was wrong. The hiccups wee not the worst. This was the most excruciating moment of the recovery. My braindead self didn’t realize that I had just swallowed a healthy dollop of peanutty super glue 5 days out of a tonsillectomy. This was really the only moment where I felt even as close to as bad as the stories I had read. However, the pain went away soon, and it didn’t cause any bleeding. So, PSA: this is the one time peanut butter is not your friend (unless you’re allergic, then it’s never your friend). During this day, I weaned to taking my pain pills every 4.5 hours, and my pain wasn’t even in my throat, just like the day before. The pain was in my neck, back, teeth, tongue, and head. Again, I woke up in the middle of the night at 3, popped a pill, and fell asleep at 4:30. Day 6: This was my worst day, but not because my scabs fell off. I woke up with an excruciating headache and realized that I had not had caffeine since the day of the surgery, and after having spread out my pills, the Percocet was no longer dulling my lack-of-caffeine migraine. I put on a pot of coffee, and it was magical. The smell was enough to perk me up, and within minutes of drinking a cup, my migraine went away… For about half an hour. Needless to say, I drank a TON of coffee on Day 6, and I didn’t care that it was hot. By that evening, I was feeling the worst. I am a complete and total baby when I get sick, which is thankfully rare. My mom had told me that I was going to be a nightmare after my tonsillectomy, and I told her to mark my words that I was going to be easy and tolerable. Well, I had been for the first 6 days. I was compliant, cooperative, stoic, and highly optimistic. However, the evening of Day 6 was my lowest low during this recovery. While we were eating dinner, a tear came out of each of my eyes at the same time (I laugh at the theatrics now) because everything hurt (except my throat, which is some “funny but not in like a haha kinda way” level of irony). I shook it off though, and used the words, “everything feels poisoned,” which, dramatic as it may seem, was accurate. It felt like someone had injected poison into my body from the waist up. Personally, I think that the lack of sleep, the lack of caffeine, the pain medicine (because I NEVER take medicine), the irregular diet, and the lack of routine hit me all at once on Day 6.
Day 7 was a different story though… Day 7: The morning of Day 7, I used the words, “today is the day I feel the MOST like myself,” which was great. The pain was minimal, but I was incredibly stir crazy, so my mom, who is a school teacher, so was off this summer, took me to Cracker Barrel for pancakes, which was such a great decision. Getting out of the house was so refreshing, so as soon as you feel able, DO IT. I’m a homebody, and even I loved it. I had a good night’s sleep, though I still wasn’t able to sleep through the night. Day 8: So, my scabs started to fall off on Day 8, and I was starting to get really scared, but I had saved up a surplus of pain pills to get me through… PFFFFT. Every now and then when I was eating, I would feel a sharp startling pain that felt like a slight rip in my throat, but the pain was momentary and completely manageable. I had already told myself that, if I feel as good as I do today tomorrow, I’ll let my boss know I’m good to come back to work the day after that. However, one thing was stopping me: my throat was repulsive. I’m not sure if it smelled as bad as it tasted, but it was easily the most vile taste I’ve ever experienced. It was like someone shredded a carcass and shoved it in the holes where my tonsils used to be. It was so bad that I gagged a couple of times. I brushed my teeth every 15-20 minutes, used strong mouthwash, and religiously chewed gum, but nothing worked. When I finally went to bed, I lay for over an hour, completely overwhelmed by the taste and consequent smell. I ended up taking half of a pain pill that night for the sole purpose of making me sleep, and this was the last pain medicine I took in the whole process. 😀 Day 9: I woke up feeling great. My throat hurt no worse than the sore throat that accompanies a cold, and I wasn’t on any medicine. I texted my boss and let her know I was coming in the next morning. My mouth still tasted bad, but it had dulled, and by Day 11, the taste was gone. So, here I am, and it is Day 12. I am back to work with almost no pain. It still hurts mildly to swallow, and my throat still has some green scabbing going on, but, as I described to my ENT’s staff when they checked on me, “it was NOTHING compared to what I had prepared myself for.” I am eating completely normal food, other than scratchy foods like chips and toast. You’re going to read horror stories online about bleeding and excruciating pain, and those situations do happen, but don’t worry because, for every freakshow case like that, there’s twenty simply cases like mine, where your biggest worries are the taste in your mouth or your swollen uvula. Good luck and God bless to everyone else who is having theirs removed. 🙂 -Levi