I’m 19 years old and currently 11 days post tonsillectomy and the worst is certainly behind me.
I had a tonsillectomy due to enlarged tonsils, tonsil stones, recurrent tonsillitis and terrible strep infections. My worst strep episode (and the one that made me seriously consider surgery) resulted in my throat nearly sealing shut. My doctor gave me steroids and told me if it got worse, I’d have to go to the ER to get a breathing tube so that I didn’t suffocate on my tonsils. Honestly, my experience was a lot more positive than a lot of the stories I’ve read. The worst was definitely being so hungry for the first nine days as well as the difficulty speaking.
I’m a super social person so being unable to communicate effectively combined with my constant hunger really got me down on days 4-8. But I’m now able to speak and eat almost without pain, and things improved much more quickly than I expected. Here’s the breakdown: Things I got: Popsicle, jello, pudding, sorbet, applesauce humidifier gum mints ice pack hot pack Day 1 (surgery day): arrived to the surgery center at 10 am. I have experienced vomiting after anesthesia in the past, so my surgeon gave me a patch to wear behind my ear starting the night before the surgery that was supposed to keep me from being sick (it didn’t). Surgeon was running late, so didn’t get into pre-op until 2 pm (this waiting period was terrible…after reading stories, I was certain I wasn’t going to be able to do this).
They asked me to take out my piercings and take a pregnancy test. IV went in fine, nurse and anesthesiologist was awesome, got wheeled into the surgery room and knocked out. Woke up in moderate pain with some ice chips. Throat felt weird, but wasn’t necessarily in pain. I was taken into another room once I was ready and was given more anti-nausea medication, as I was starting to feel sick again. I mostly just felt tired and strange. Got home and slept for the rest of the day after eating a Popsicle. Day 2-3: Pain was super bearable, nausea wasn’t. I threw up on both day 2 and day 3 due to my Percocet and the anesthesia. My doctor prescribed me Zofran, but it didn’t help. I ended up giving up Percocet after this and managed my whole recovery with just OTC ibuprofen and acetaminophen, taking each every 6 hours alternating (so I took pain medicine every ~3 hours) Day 4-5: Pain in the ears and jaw started to get annoying, but the heating pad usually helped this.
The pain was at most a 5/10. It was a constant dull ache that escalated to a sharp pain during swallowing. It hurt less than my constant strep infections. I never experienced the excruciating pain that others seem to have, and this was on just OTC pain medication. Humidifier was running 24/7, and I woke up at regular intervals to re-up on my pain med’s. Even though the pain wasn’t too bad during these days, I started getting really lonely and sad. I just wanted to talk and eat something that wasn’t applesauce, pudding, or soup! I never appreciated food as much as during this week.
Day 6-8: These were probably my most painful days. During the day, the pain was a constant 3/10, but at night my scabs would dry out and I would wake up in 7/10 pain. However, drinking a lot of water throughout the night and sleeping with my face right next to the humidifier really helped me through this. The pain would only be bad for about 30 mins until my pain meds and water helped soothe it. While it wasn’t fun, it was definitely manageable. I began to speak during these days, but I sounded like Kermit and it was very painful so I used my words carefully.
Day 9-11: For the last few days, it’s just been getting better. I have been sleeping fully through the night, and usually only take ibuprofen before I eat to help with the swallowing pain. Eating and talking are still a minor challenge, but it’s so much better than it used to be. My uvula is still super swollen and bruised, which interferes with my speech, but my throat is probably at worst a 2/10 pain. I ate a whole bowl of oatmeal with apples today and had cookies yesterday, with minimal pain! The pain was never unmanageable, yeah it was uncomfortable but it was by no means the worst pain I’ve ever felt.
The worst part, as I said earlier, was how long it takes to feel back to normal. I lost about 10 lbs, which I am slowly gaining back (this is good–I wasn’t a big person to begin with). This recovery, in my opinion, is more a mental game than a physical game. I found I felt better when other people would come in and talk to me, even if I couldn’t talk back. I watched a lot of TV and when I started feeling better during the days I would go to the theater and watch movies with my friends (I would recommend this! It’s a good way to socialize and go out a little bit without having to talk or do strenuous activity…just be careful to stay hydrated and not get an infection). I’m lucky to have had a decently easy recovery, and I’ve been amazed how quickly I’ve improved since the scabs have started falling off. My throat and I have been at odds since I was 13, so hopefully this will help many of my recurring problems and I will be a healthier and happier person for it!
Good luck to all of you in the midst of this! And to those who have yet to undergo surgery: you can do it! I hyped this up to be the absolute worst thing ever, and while it was terrible at times and I cried and was in pain, it wasn’t as bad as I was making it up to be in my head. As long as you prepare for what seems like the longest week of your life, you’ll be on the other side before you know it. Good luck!