One man’s experience- with tips for recovery
Firstly – thank you Greg for this incredible website, community and beacon of hope in the darkest of days…
Hope that this helps anyone reading who’s looking for some pre-op insight, recovery tips or even just reassurance that despite how you currently feel, you will actually feel human again – believe me, I know how you feel as though I did a lot of research before I went in, I still didn’t quite appreciate just how bad it can get…
I’m a 36yo Male in the UK and had my tonsils removed on June 1st 2022 on the NHS as a day procedure (cauterization not stitches) after a few years of stones and strep throat. I need to just say at this point that regardless of the bad rep the NHS sometimes gets, I cannot fault a single a thing about the whole experience – from the first appointment, the consultant actually listened to the problems I had, took the time to fully investigate the issues and offered the procedure along with speech therapy after, without question. Then on the day itself, I was checked in, taken to the immaculately clean and modern ward and looked after for the next 11hrs by some of the loveliest and most attentive doctors and nurses I’ve ever met. Truth be told, I was dreading this but they made what should have been a horrendous experience, actually quite pleasant …all at no (aside from monthly tax deductions) cost to myself.
A few key things I learned;
– The op takes about 30mins but I didn’t know where I was for about 90, when I came round in the recovery room.
– They will make you stay the full 6 hours after you wake up (for me 11:45am)
– Your throat will be in tatters and the pain comes in waves. Maybe 6/10 but not too bad
– If you can, avoid Morphine when offered – you’ll require less observation time after the op and can go home earlier than someone who has had it. Also, it will often make you feel sick, which judging by the chap next to me, made his day 10 times worse. If you tell them that you don’t want opiates, they’ll find something else for you.
– Ice cold milkshake is your friend today
Pain (for me, this seems to change for everyone)
– Days 1 & 2 were ok. Background pain of 3/4. Slept through the night both nights. Nap in the afternoon. All ok really.
– Day 3. In the evening of this day, the pain started to get worse.
– Days 4 to 8. Some very dark, lonely and emotional times here. These were the absolute worst for me, with the pain gradually building up to Day 8. It’s not constant searing pain, but swallowing becomes more and more difficult, throat swells which makes it even harder, anything other than water burns, talking really strains your voice and throat, ear pain, jaw pain and your teeth feel like they’re infected. The worst bit about these days was struggling to even drink pureed soup and waking up in a cold sweat an hour or two after going to sleep with 9/10 pain from a dried out throat – the only thing you can do here is sip water, take more tablets and wait for it to settle. Give it 20 mins, you will be ok.
– Day 9. Literally woke up as a different person. Still some background pain but everything is noticeably easier. Woke up in the night but nowhere near as bad
– Day 10. I had scrambled eggs and ketchup on this day. I wanted to cry. I was so happy. Literally one squirt of something as simple as ketchup brought me so much human joy. Look forward to the little things, they will come.
– Day 11 onwards. Everyday things get better quite quickly. The background pain almost subsides completely, pain at mealtimes is much more manageable. No more waking up in the night. Solid food is still off the menu to start, but even just to be able to eat soup is a thing of wonder. General mood and outlook on life has improved so much. Starting to get back to normal.
– 2 x Ibuprofen & 2 x Paraceptomol, every 4 hours. This will likely slip in the night but given the amount of water you’ll be sipping you’ll likely be fine and bearing in mind how much pain you’ll be in at times, you won’t care anyway if you overlap your slots a little.
– Breakfast. 1 or 2 Weetabix breakfast shakes. These taste good and have vitamins, protein, fibre and iron. All things you need to heal.
– After eating, rinse your mouth with a saline solution (1 tsp salt & 2 tsp bicarb) first thing. This will clean all the gunk out, sterilize the wound to avoid infection, and take away some pain by washing the salty/sugary food off your throat.
– After rinsing, brush teeth. Scrape the tongue -Carefully to start. You’ll feel so much better for having a clean mouth. Do this after your saline rinse, as that’ll wear away your enamel and lead to tooth ache and yellowing.
– Lunch/Dinner. Blend or puree soups so you can drink them. I went for Vegetable in the afternoon and chicken in the evening along with more Weetabix drinks. A lot of people survive on jelly but I was conscious of wanting to get as many vitamins and minerals into me as possible.
– Drinks. Sip water constantly to keep the scabs moist. I also had a few cups of Twinings turmeric tea with a couple of teaspoons of real honey stirred in. Both are anti-everything super foods.
– Routine. Don’t just amble through the day dealing with things as they come. Have a plan. Know what your next thing is. Do it. Look forward to the next thing. Make everything feel like an achievement and you’ll feel like you’re getting somewhere.
– Chew gum. They tell you to eat as normally as you can, as it’ll speed up recovery but for me this just wasn’t possible. I talked to the consultant about this and the hard vs soft food is still a bone of contention in the medical world apparently but it’s generally agreed that the act of chewing and as such moving your throat is what helps. So, chew gum. All the chewing, far less painful swallowing. Plus it’ll help with the taste.
– Learn how to swallow. I found that holding water/soup in my mouth for a second, then trying to swallow over my tongue (as opposed to swallowing straight from the glass/cup onto my throat) helped a lot.
– What to eat. Everyone tells you to eat ice cream and you end up thinking that it’ll be like two weeks with Willy Wonka. What they don’t tell you is that anything sugary, salty or spicy is going to burn. A lot. Anything with any texture is going to hurt. A lot. Anything dairy is going to dry your throat out and burn and hurt. A lot. Find something bland you like, blitz it and make peace with the fact that tat is going to be your life on days 4 to 8.
– Pain relief. A lot of people use codeine (cocodomol etc) however I was conscious of not wanting to have to deal with being constipated along with the daily throat pain. Neurofen & standard paracetamol worked fine on days 4 to 8. Otherwise, it was just the usual 30p off the shelf ones. It’s going to hurt whatever. Just get into a routine in your body and your mind.
– Stay clean. Get up, clean your mouth, have a shower, get dressed. You’ll feel ten times better than if you just wallow in your pit, trust me.
– Go outside. Get some fresh air, get some vitamin D from the sun. Even if it’s just for 15 minutes. It will help your mood no end.
– Become a nerd. If you have a playstation, buy a game. If you’re concentrating on that, you’re not concentrating on your throat. I completed Red Dead Redemption 2 – yeehaw!
– Humidifier. This is great at night especially, as it’ll help keep your throat moist and preempt some of the night pain when you wake up.
– Talk to someone. Don’t get stuck in your own head. Whether it’s family or a forum like this, speak to someone but keep positive – they’re not going to be put back in so all you can do is get better. Nobody can do this for you but you CAN do it.
As I said previously, I did a lot of research but even then there was a lot of stuff I didn’t know, so hopefully this will fill in some of the blanks for you. These are just my experiences though and everybody is of course different but I hope that even some of this might be of help to you if you’re reading. There’s going to be some seriously low points but it will get better and you are going to be ok – I didn’t believe it at the time, but I promise you, the survivors aren’t lying to you.
Hang in there, better days are ahead.