Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm alive, barely. Tonsillectomy recovery is the worst. thing. ever.

I had my tonsils out on March 19, two weeks ago today.  Last year I had strep throat and/or tonsillitis which required stronger and stronger antibiotics, from August to December, with only a few short breaks in between bouts of illness, so I decided that I couldn't live that way anymore.  I asked my family doctor about getting my tonsils out and he said that he would refer me, even though he didn't think any doctor would take them out since I'm an adult.  He said that as adults, our tonsils have scarred & adhered onto the wall of the throat so much, that removing them was much riskier, since the wall of the throat could be nicked and they could hit the main arteries that run through your neck, which are located directly under the tonsils.  Plus the recovery was far worse for adults than for children.  But he sent the referral and when I saw Dr. Harris a couple of months later, he took one look and said he would take them out.

For once in my life I didn't google tonsillectomies or read up on the procedure or recovery.  I didn't even think about it that much until I mentioned at Parent Council one night that I was getting my tonsils out, and one of the other mom's gasped and told me that she had her's out in January and that the pain had been worse than childbirth and had lasted three weeks.  I wrongfully assumed that she must have been exaggerating.

This next part is gross:

I had the surgery on early Monday afternoon and when I finally came to in the pediatric ward, (they didn't have a bed for me anywhere else) I spent a considerable amount of time vomiting blood.  I should have realized that it was going to be bad when I rated my pain at a 3 out of 10 even when I was getting morphine through my IV.  I had an amazing nurse for that first shift, Kara, who was attentive to little details and very nice.

I left the hospital on Tuesday morning with instruction to take Tylenol & Ibuprofen for the pain, since I can't take codeine, which is what they typically prescribe post-tonsillectomy.  The next few days were a blur of pain.

It's amazing how small pain can make your life.  I was aware of virtually nothing but the pain.  Thankfully Mike had taken a few days off work to take care of me and the girls.  I broke on Thursday afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore and my throat was bleeding.  I'm not so proud that I can't admit that I had a bit of a crying jag that afternoon.  I called the Dr.'s office and they told me to head to emergency.  Mike was able to come home a bit early from work to take me in and my mom picked up my oldest from school and took the two kids out to the farm overnight.

My face was swelling on the right side and it was red down that side of my neck as well.  I thought maybe it was infection, but the doctor told me it was trauma, because basically I had third degree burns across the backsides of my throat.  He gave me a handful of Percocet and a prescription for a major anti-inflammatory and sent me on my way.  The anti-inflammatory helped immensely, I was too afraid to try the Percocet because I thought it would make me throw-up and I couldn't even imagine how that would feel at this stage.

The following Tuesday I had to go see Dr. Harris again, since I had run out of pain meds and antibiotics.

Wednesday morning, day 9, was the first day I woke up and didn't wish I was dead.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it's true.  There is nothing that I can compare the pain too.  I have given birth twice, broken the end of my funny bone off, had four other surgeries, been rear-ended three times and had the accompanying whiplash, and suffer from migraines, but have never felt such unrelenting pain like this before in my life.  I finally googled tonsillectomy recovery and found this site which helped me feel less like a wuss, and also horror, that I hadn't mentally prepared myself for how bad it was going to be:  One person said that they had had open heart surgery and a kidney transplant, but neither of those had come close to the pain of their tonsillectomy.

I spent 9 days in bed with a humidifier running 24 hours a day (which helps keep your throat moist, especially when sleeping) and ice packs wrapped around my neck day and night, to keep the swelling down.  I went at least 5 days only drinking ice water and just started lukewarm soup on day 8 and very soft solids on day 12.  I can barely eat solids as they stick in my throat and the intensive swallowing needed to make the food go down has sometimes caused my throat to start bleeding again. I've tried to go without taking pain meds, but by late afternoon I can't tolerate the pain anymore and have to take something.  It doesn't just hurt in my throat, but also my jaw, teeth, tongue and all the muscles in my neck up to my chin.  The post surgery care sheet they gave me at the hospital said that I should expect moderate to severe pain for 2-3 weeks post-surgery!  FYI, the recovery rate in children is about a third of the time of an adult and apparently not nearly as painful.

In spite of all this I have much to be thankful for.  I didn't get the searing ear pain that 50% of patients typically get.  I have wonderful friends and family who provided food for my family and brought flowers for me.  My parents took the girls whenever they could and my mom made me baked custard, since it could slide down my throat fairly easily.  Mike has been a star, taking care of the kids, making lunches, even loading and unloading the dishwasher (which he had never done before in our married lives!) I also know that a lot of people were praying for my recovery which was very comforting. I'm just really hoping that I'll be able to eat normally by Easter weekend so I can enjoy my mother-in-law's homemade perogies!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!! So thankful you're finally coming out the other end! You have been in our prayers constantly (wish I could have done more - but I know prayer is vital). We will continue praying for your complete healing & NO pain soon. Thankful for the support you've received along the way. {{Hugs}}