Tonsillectomy Recovery in Scotland

Scott Shares His Experience With Tonsillectomy and Recovery With Tips:

Thought I’d share my story – I am a 29 year old male from Scotland and underwent a tonsillectomy by NHS Scotland and wanted to share my story so people in the UK know what to expect.

I’m afraid ‘jell-o’, ‘applesauce’ and sports drinks are (nearly) completely absent from my story! I had problems on my right side for about 3-4 years leading up to the operation, and saw doctors who diagnosed eustachian tube disfunction, but after going back and telling them a million times that I felt ‘like I had something stuck between my ear and throat’ and that my right ear would never pop, they finally gave in and gave me an MRI scan which showed an enlarged tonsil on the right hand side. I already had my tonsils out when I was 6.

This operation was offered to me to remove the tonsil and have histology take a look at it, to check if it had just regenerated and to make sure it isn’t anything nastier(awaiting results!)

I was given an appointment about a month after the operation was agreed, and went in at 8am on the Monday morning, April 2017. I was allowed no food or drink whatsoever after midnight on the Sunday. MONDAY I arrived at 8am at the ENT department and was shown my bed, told I would be in for the night unless I was ‘doing extremely well’. The surgeon came round and immediately put my mind at ease about everything. The nurses and anesthetists would run through questions over and over with me.

At about 9.30am I was taken to the anesthetic room, given a relaxation aid, painkillers and anesthetic through a canaille. I’d say it was about 10 seconds and I was out, no counting backwards from 10 or anything like that, just chatting with the anesthetists then you’re asleep! I woke up in recovery at 10:15am and was taken back to the ward. I was given a bowl of Jelly and ice cream, which I wolfed down.

The main difference in the UK is that the NHS make you eat normally straight away. The reason for this is to stop a large, singular scab forming, as this would be ridiculously painful. So the act of chewing and swallowing helps to keep the wound covered in lots of little scabs which saves it stiffening up.

Lunch was at noon – sandwich, yoghurt, orange juice, coffee, plenty of water (throughout the day) and biscuits. It was not difficult or painful to eat on Monday at all, and I was given chicken curry with rice for dinner, and toast for supper. I was given ibuprofen and paracetamol throughout the day, and nothing stronger. I was up walking about in the evening, and generally felt fine throughout the day. I woke up in the middle of the night in need of a painkiller, and we were given toast for breakfast and let out at 8/9am on Tuesday.

IMPORTANT – I cannot stress enough how much of a false sense of security I was in, and only asked for paracetamol and ibuprofen upon being signed out. I felt that because I felt fine, this was all I needed (as it was all I had been given) however the pain WILL INCREASE DRAMATICALLY over the coming week, so make sure you ask for all the painkillers you can as you WILL need them. Probably the effects of anesthetic and morphine were yet to wear off!

Over the next week, I found eating to be painful, particularly breakfast. I would eat shredded wheat, and began to learn that textures were ok to handle, it was more the cold milk/water that caused the pain. Combat this by taking your painkillers 30mins before mealtimes.

Saturday (day 6) was when the pain peaked. I couldn’t bring myself to eat, and the paracetamol and ibuprofen were just not working today. I imagine this was the day of the most scabbing. I couldn’t eat or drink at all, and was on the verge of crying because of the pain. I had flu-like shakes it was so sore. I must say, nobody (doctor included) prepared me for this pain. I took codeine tablets that were lying around the house which had a negligible effect. I genuinely did not realize pain this extreme existed! Take someone putting a red hot metal tip on the site of the wound, adding sensitive tooth/toothache nerve pain, then multiply by 100.

The following days get better. I returned to work on the Monday, and found the pain to be away by midweek. Now, as I write this on Sunday (day 14), i have halved my painkiller intake, can eat and drink normally (even cold stuff!) and my throat simply feels a bit choked, which I imagine is just the last of the swelling. I went for a run today, first one since the operation, and felt absolutely fine.

MY TOP TIPS – Ask for as many painkillers as you can upon leaving hospital, as I guarantee the pain will increase dramatically once you leave. – Eat normally! it really helps to clear the scabbing, but don’t force the scab to come off as that’s when you’ll bleed to death (only joking, but you might!) – I found hot drinks were quite soothing, in the same way as they would soothe your average sore throat from a cold. To finish, yes – it’s going to be sore. One of the sorest things you’ll ever experience, especially a few days after it. But the doctors and nurses know their stuff and are great. I can’t say it’s better than having tonsillitis as I didn’t have it, but I certainly feel better and can pop my ears, however I wait calmly on my histology results. The operation was 100% worth it. You’ll survive. It’ll be mega sore, but you’ll survive!

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