OK so before I got my tonsils out, I of course read every little thing I could find about the surgery. One thing I had a hard time finding, and the thing I was most nervous about was the experience in the hospital, so I'm giving a really detailed explanation of my entire surgery day experience, a few days reactions, and my list of necessities. Overall, not that bad! I think the world must be filled with big babies, because overall, this has been like a moderate case of strep, minus the body aches and fever. I hope some people find this information useful!
My back story: Iíve always had huge tonsils, but as a kid, my doctor didnít want to take them out. I got strep every once in a while, maybe once a year, but for the most part, I was a healthy kid. It had been about 5 years since Iíd had any kind of throat infection when last October, I got a raging case of tonsillitis that came back two more times over a 9 week period. This was during my sophomore year of college, and I ended up missing about 3 weeks of class. I visited my primary doctor, who referred me to an ENT after hearing my story. When I went to the ENT, after hearing my story, he took about a 2 second look at my tonsils before deciding they needed to come out. He was really attentive and listened to everything I had to say, including my resistance to most medicines, including vicoden. He also listened to my story of when I got my wisdom teeth out, which was a very traumatic experience for me (the sedation and local anesthesia never fully set in, and the doctor started pulling teeth and wouldnít stop even when I was screaming, he instead had the nurses hold me down while he kept working) He acknowledged my fears and told me nothing like that would happen, and that I should let the nurses and the anesthesiologist know since they could give me something to help me feel more calm.
Operation day: The day of surgery I was pretty freaked out, partly because of the bad experience I had getting my wisdom teeth out a few months before where, so as much as I tried to keep calm, I was still nervous. I woke up and took a shower with antibacterial soap (I had to take one the night before too). My surgery wasnít until 2:00 pm (it was a little short notice, my ENT wanted to do the surgery before I went back to school, so the soonest appointment they could do was in the afternoon.) so I got to the hospital at 12:30 and was called back shortly after I got there. My mom came back with me too. They weighed me, got a urine sample, and then I went back to the pre-op holding room where I changed into a gown and shorts they gave me (I really appreciated the shorts, I felt a lot less naked!). I had a few different nurses coming in to answer questions and do different things, like set up my iv, which kind of freaked me out because itís a little painful, but mostly just looks weird, I never knew the needle isnít what stays in your hand, itís actually just a tiny tube. The nurse then told me Iíd have to take out my retainers (plastic jewelry that holds piercings open) because it was policy at that hospital to not bring anything that could be contaminated into the operating room. After that I started to cry, and my mom told the nurse why I was nervous because of what happened with my teeth, and she was really sweet and reassuring, and had a different nurse give me some anti-anxiety meds through my iv, which helped a lot. I have a high tolerance for medicine, so they gave me a double dose, which just calmed me down, but didnít make me feel really drugged out or anything, so I could still ask all my questions. My doctor, another nurse who was going to be in the surgery with me, and my anesthesiologist all came in and told me what they were going to do, how it would feel and answered all my questions, and around 2:30 my mom air kissed me goodbye (didnít want her cooties in the operating room!) and the surgical nurse wheeled me back to the operating room.
Once I was in the operating room, the nurse undid the ties on my gown and helped me from my bed to the operating table. Donít worry, you wonít flash everyone, itís just so in case thereís an emergency, they can reach your chest with the paddles quicker, just a precaution and standard hospital procedure. Once I was up on the table, they adjusted the sides on my gown so they hung off the edges and quickly covered me up with some warm blankets (it was chilly in there!). They gave me an oxygen mask and told me they were giving my anesthesia through my iv and it would burn, but just to ďbreath away the pain.Ē It burnt like crazy!!! Oh man, I felt it burning my hand, then my arm, then in my chest, then everything went blurry and I fell asleep. It literally took about 3 or 4 seconds before I was asleep.
I woke up in the recovery room back in the bed I was in before surgery. It felt a lot like it feels to wake up from a realllly deep sleep, just extended a little longer, like I knew what was going on and that I was awake, but it was hard to focus or talk clearly, and it kind of just felt like I might doze off again. The recovery nurse came by, took my vitals and gave me some pain meds through my iv. I thought it would sting like the anesthesia, but I didnít feel it at all. She brought me some water, which felt really good. I thought Iíd be sorer when I woke up, but mostly it just stung a bit and was tender. I asked her if the pain was going to get worse, and she said not much worse, even when the scabs came off, she said it would probably just sting a little more then. I coughed a lot when I first woke up, but my nurse told me it was normal and just from the tube that they put down your throat to help you breathe and protects your airways during surgery (they put it in AFTER youíre asleep and take it out BEFORE you wake up). She put an air mask around my neck that blew cool, moist oxygen in my face. It felt nice, and I didnít have to wear it over my nose and mouth. After I woke up a little more, she gave me a dose of Percocet (vicoden, the pain med in the liquid lortab, what most people get after this surgery, doesnít work for me, which I discussed with my doctor before surgery) and a popsicle, then let my mom come back after I woke up a little more and could get out of the bed and into a chair. I hung out in recovery with my mom and the nurse just chatting and sipping more water for a while. I was one of the last patients in recovery (I was the last outpatient surgery that day), so the other few people there all had a nurse looking after them already. The nurse ran over all the recovery stuff with my mom, then we all ended up talking about Disney world for a little while before they let me leave. My mom got me a frosty on the way home! The rest of the day, my throat was a little achy, but mostly just stung. It felt good to drink ice water, so I had a ton.
Day 1 post-op: My throat stung less in the morning, but ached a little more, kind of like strep throat. I went to the store with my mom and we picked up a couple more things the nurses had recommended at the hospital (Pringles, believe it or not, are wonderful!) and then got French fries and milk shakes at McDonalds (also recommended by the same nurse). I thought I was up for all the activity, but it wore me out and I got really dizzy on the way home and just ended up snoozing the afternoon away.
Day 2: Woke up this morning feeling like I was going to puke. Called the doctor and they suggested I try extra strength Tylenol instead of my pain med (this ****** me off, if I had to take Percocet, which, for anyone who doesnít know, is oxycotin, why would Tylenol help at all?) so I tried that, spent the next 4 hours miserable and decided Iíd rather throw up than be in that much pain, so I attempted to eat some cheerios, figuring theyíd help keep my stomach calm when I took my Percocet. I then discovered our milk was bad, and Iíd eaten some of it in some macaroni the night before. I was pretty sure this is what upset my stomach, because I was fine before taking Percocet. So after I figured that out and got back on my pain meds, I felt a lot better.
Day 3: I started cutting back on my pain meds last night, and I can see little pieces of white scab starting to come off, I donít see any areas where theyíve completely come off, but mostly just tiny specs from around the edges. The pain is a little worse today, but still not unbearable, still feels like strep/bacterial tonsillitis, except not as bad since eating and drinking isnít impossible the way it always was whenever I got sick, plus Iím not achy all over with a fever or anything. Mostly just a little tired. So far, this whole experience has not been nearly as bad as I expected or was told it would be. Iím waiting for my scabs to fall off more completely, but when I talked to the nurse afterwards, she said I shouldnít feel much of a difference, just a little stinging when they came off, so Iím grasping on to that, hoping!
Day 6: Days 4 and 5 were more of the same. Sometimes the pain is more or less, or just different, but overall I feel pretty sore, but tolerable. I was down to just taking my pain pills 3 times a day, about every 6 hours and then just taking Tylenol before bed (if you do this, be careful to check how much acetaminophen youíre taking in, Iím sure your doc gave you this warning, but just a reminder, no more than 4000 mg a day!) and itís been working pretty well. Today, I can see a little more pink, but Iím still mostly scabbed up. The pain was a little worse today, so Iím back to taking my pain pills every 4ish hours again. Mostly Iím just getting bored with all the same foods and same pain day after day. I also have been getting earaches the past couple days, which I found gum does help (Iíve been chewing it from the start, I find it keeps me swallowing and helps throat pain too.), but what works the best is one of those gel packs you can heat up in the microwave wrapped in a towel and held over my ears feels really good, it also feels nice around the neck. My lymph nodes are a little swollen and Iíve been sleeping funny so my neck is sore and the heat loosens it up.
My essentials-Hereís the stuff thatís getting me through, Iíve mentioned some of them above:
ē I have one of those backrest pillows that look like a little chair with the arms. I prop a pillow or two vertically against it, and it makes a good incline for sleeping on the couch or in my bed.
ē Ice water- I know everyone says this, but itís completely true. One of the thousand nurses I had said I should aim for a gallon or more a day, which I was taken aback by, I thought the 3 liters I drank on a regular day was a lot, but she stressed the or more part of it, and I think thatís why Iíve been doing so well with pain. Iíve been getting in about a gallon and a half of liquids a day. I pee all the time, but I feel pretty good and my skin looks amazing, so itís worth it.
ē Regular Pringles and French onion dip- I know this sounds crazy, but theyíre wonderful because theyíre not mushy, but they get really soft and go down well without much effort. One of my nurses suggested them to me
ē Cheerios- chew these up really well and have with lots of water, or let them get a little soft in milk, but they really help keep my stomach calm.
ē Ice/hot pack and hand towel- on the neck feels nice and distracts from the pain of the throat. I think part of why it feels nice is because of the weird angles Iím sleeping at to be comfy. Heating them and placing them on the ears feels nice too when they start to hurt. Iím using the ones I got from the oral surgeon when I got my wisdom teeth out.
ē Golden oreos and milk- I assume regular oreos would be good too, but for some reason the vanilla cookie and chocolate filling sounded like a better idea to me. A quick dip in milk and these go down just fine, and the milk feels nice to sip on, too.
ē G2 gatorade- fruit punch and lemon-lime flavors feel the best to me, I tried grape, but it stung a lot. I like G2 better than just Gatorade, so really just go with what you like.
ē Ramen noodles- delicious, soft and donít require any chewing and the broth can help hydrate.
ē Macaroni and cheese- the boxed kind, not the frozen kind. As much as I love the frozen stuff, the boxed stuff goes down better because the sauce isnít as thick.
ē Medicine chart-to keep track of when youíve taken all your pills.
ē Benefiber- mixes into pretty much any drink or mushy food (not pop though). It makes me feel better after days of junk food, and narcotic pain meds can cause constipation, which sucks!
ē Phillips stool softener- I should have taken this from the start. I donít want to get too gross, but constipation is never fun, and sucks more when youíre already a bit miserable. These are tiny gel pills that donít cause cramps or tummy pain (and wonít make you poop your brains outÖsorry, but its true!) like most laxatives. Just take one or two a day from day one and youíll avoid your pain meds unfortunate side effect.
ē Straws- I read somewhere someone said not to use straws, but I asked my doctor and he laughed and said it was absolutely fine to use straws as long as you donít stab back there. I think itís more comfortable to drink through straws, plus theyíre fun to drink out of, so you drink more!
ē Lots of ice- Iím working on my third big bag from the gas station. Ice cold drinks are a lot more appealing to me. They help with throat pain by numbing it a little and keeping swelling down.
ē Nalgene water bottle- not completely necessary, but I like having it. I can close it and throw it in the fridge and since its 32 oz, it makes it easier to know how much liquid Iím getting. Itís motivating to see how many ounces youíve had and how many more you have to drink that day, or even to challenge yourself to drink so many ounces in an hour. I drink about a gallon and a half each day.
ē Smiley fries- theyíre soft on the inside and just crispy enough on the outside it breaks the monotony of mush. Try dipping them in ketchup, ranch or just put a little season salt and grab a drink. They go down fine, I promise. And theyíre delish!
What a thorough and detailed explanation of your surgery and recovery. Thank you so much for taking the time and energy to put this all together to help others through this, or any other similar procedures.
As you have stated, the anticipation is usually the very worst part. Any time a person can encourage others of this fact, the batter, and I applaud you for your story.
We hear so much negative information about so many parts of medical care...the Doctor's, the medications, the side effects, the pain, the embarrassment, the fear and anxiety of it all.
You have covered all those bases, and given such a positive take on all of it. That is an attitude that will carry you for the rest of your life, as well as sharing what you have learned to others. I encourage you to continue your writing too, very clear and you come across just just like a friend.
May I ask how old you are?
Did you take notes along the way? Did you have the idea all along that you would be sharing your story afterwards? Do you do a lot of writing, because you are really good at it. Sorry if I seem so nosey, but I read a lot of posts, and this one has really caught my eye. how long has it been now, and how are you feeling? I will look forward to your reply!
Thanks so much! I'm glad to help people who might be scared, because left's face it, how the heck could someone not be scared out of their minds when the general consensus on an adult tonsillectomy is horrible pain and misery.
I'm 20, and I wasn't sure I was going to share, but I instantly (and very groggily) decided I had to share as soon as I woke up. I was most nervous about the surgery itself. I'm a total information hound, so knowing every little detail makes me feel more comfortable, and I wanted to let others like myself know exactly what was going down, so I wrote it out as soon as I was functioning well enough to string together sentences. As for my recovery, when I wasn't experiencing the agony I was promised, I started writing out major points of the day and how I was feeling as each day progressed, and then fixed them up into neat little paragraphs. I kept track for a few days and then stuck it up here, hoping it would help people see it doesn't have to be horrible, scary experience.
I'm a science nerd for sure, but I've always liked writing. I do a little writing on the side for fun, but for the most part, I do a lot of editing for friends papers! Science nerds sometimes struggle with writing, and we trade- I edit papers, they help me with chemistry and calculus!
Thanks again for all the compliments, and I'm glad you liked it so much! I just wanted to help others like me who are freaked out have a little piece of mind.
DAY 7: Today is a lot like other days, they're starting to run together, and to be honest, I'm getting a little antsy, I'm moving back up to school on friday and I start work monday! One thing I've noticed (err...ok my mom pointed it out) is I have a lot more energy. I went to the store today and did a little clothes shopping with my mom. Mostly, I think the pain is starting to decrease, as long as I keep a stream of ice water, it feels alright. I'm just reaching that point where you just have to stay positive and know I'll feel better soon! I feel the best yet today, just not as good as I'd hoped, but I'm getting there.
Thank you SO SO SO SO MUCH for posting this. I'm having my tonsils out this friday, and I've been on the verge of tears all week because I'm so terrified of having the surgery. you have eased my fears *so* much. I really can't thank you enough for sharing your story.
Is it usual for the anesthesia to burn? I've never heard of that before, and I don't remember that particular part of the last surgery I had (when I was 7, I'm now 17). I asked a couple people I know who've had surgery, and they all said there was no burning at all. Do you know if the burning is a common thing or was there a particular reason for it, etc?
and did the hospital tell you to wash with the antibacterial soap or is that something you chose to do? is it a special kind of soap or just like any other kind?
again - thank you so much for posting this. I feel significantly more prepared and at ease now!
I'm guessing different hospitals give different instructions. I was told to take a bath or shower either the night before or the morning of surgery. (My surgery was scheduled for 8:30 A.M.) Nothing was said about what kind of soap I was to use.
I wasn't afraid of the surgery. The recovery horror stories were what scared me. My recovery went very well. I wasn't miserable. I didn't bleed. The only REALLY painful time was 3:30 A.M. on Day 7 and only lasted for a few minutes until my pain meds kicked in. My worst sore throat days were Days 7 and 8, but it wasn't unbearable. Starting on Day 9, everything just got better and better.
I mentioned in another thread about being told at my pre-surgery training session at the hospital NOT to use straws. And it had nothing to do with the possibility of poking my throat. I was a bit disappointed. I had bought a new package of straws especially for the occasion. My guess is that this advice varies from doctor to doctor and hospital to hospital.
By the way, at 58, I'm pretty old for a tonsillectomy patient. According to my ENT and his assistant, this was supposed to be really painful for me at my age, but I got along amazing well, I think. At your age, Megan, I bet you'll do fine.
The anesthesia I had was all through an IV, no gas or anything, and I think gas is a little more common for kids surgeries since needles can freak little kids out, but I could be completely wrong, just a guess. One of the nurses told me when they were putting it into my iv and that it might burn for a few second, so I don't think it's all that uncommon. I think part of why it was so painful for me was because it was such a shock, its not really a pain you feel under normal circumstances. Don't worry, once it went in, I pretty much had time to think "ow...ow ow ow OW!" and then everything went blurry for half a second and I was out.
The hospital did ask me to take two showers with antibacterial soap, one the night before and one the morning of (they said I didn't need to wash my hair twice or anything). I just used dial hand soap because we already had it! I know you can get antibacterial body soap, but I didn't really feel like running to the store! Be warned, I was a little itchy the next day, but my mom put some lotion on my back and I felt way better.
I'm really glad you feel better about the surgery now! I promise it's not as bad and scary as everyone makes it out to be. Yeah, it sucks, but what really saved me was drinking massive amounts of water and staying optimistic. Good luck tomorrow!
For anyone curious I'm on Day 8 of my recovery and I feel pretty good. I'm only taking extra strength tylenol now and the pain isn't bad. Eating is still strange, but I ate this morning before I even took my pain meds without trouble. It's the first day I feel a real noticeable improvement in the pain on or off pain meds.
Good for you, Soardkat! Glad you're getting along so well. My instruction sheet said that the pain would probably get worse somewhere between Day 5 and Day 12. As I said before, that happened on Day 7 for me. Maybe you're going to skip that stage.
I only had IV anesthesia, also. No burning. Maybe I'm just a tough old bird.
choirgirl - question for you! because your name caught my eye. Are you a singer? If you are, how did the surgery affect your voice? Because I'm a singer, and that's probably what I'm most worried about above anything else. Apparently there's a risk of the voice becoming more nasal, and I don't know what I would do if my voice was ruined!
soardkat - thank you! one more question. how long was it after your surgery until you were allowed/able to drive?
Interestingl I had mine at in my teens. they were getting infected all the time. even then they did not take them out as much. i took me longer to get over the pain meds. anesthesia and me do not get along.
I was not afraid. this was in the 70s. lol
my mom was more afraid like you were. so i did not want her there when i went in or under. like i love lucy freaking out.
all i knew was i was going to get better and not miss so much school!!
being sick bugs me. i guess having been a sickly kid i am glad for good drs and nurses who make me feel better lol!
Hi, Megan. I sing alto in our tiny church choir. If there's an alto solo, I'm the one that sings it. I occasionally sing a special by myself or as part of a duet.
I wondered if the surgery would affect my voice, too. Tomorrow, I'll be 5 weeks post-op, and I don't think my voice has changed any. There is no nasal sound. There's one annoying little thing that I hope will go away with a little more time: my soft palate feels thick when I swallow and seems to me to be hanging a little low. It doesn't hurt, but I am aware of its presence all the time. At my 4 week post-op appointment, my ENT said my throat looked really good, but I still wasn't totally healed. He wants to see me again in October to see how I'm getting along. At that time, I will be 10 weeks post-op and I'm hoping everything will be back to normal by then. Remember, at 58, I'm lots older than you, and I think recovery is supposed to be faster when you're younger.
You didn't ask me about driving, but I'll answer you anyway. I didn't drive until I was off of the narcotics (at first I took liquid Lortab, then switched to Norco, pretty much the same drug, but in pill form). They made me kind of loopy. Loopy people have no business driving.
Hey Megan, about driving, I would use your own digression. The first few days I was pretty tired and got dizzy if I did too much. Narcotics obviously can effect you in a way that prevents you from driving, so I would say after you're off your pain meds its safe. Just know, if you do chose to drive while on narcotics, if your driving is affected and you get pulled over, you can get charged with a DUI. Also, I don't know much about singing, but I can see how your voice might change for a little while, but once your muscles adapt, I bet it will go back to normal. I'm literally using my very small knowledge about singing combined with how swallowing has changed for me. I swallow a lot differently now, and sometimes it feels really weird, but once I'm healed up and my muscles adapt to how my throat is now I'm sure swallowing will feel more normal. So maybe I'm talking total bs, but it makes sense to me! Josh Groban got his tonsils out as an adult, and he still sings beautifully, so I bet you'll be fine too!
ChoirGirl-A lot of iv drugs sting and burn when I get them, so maybe it depends on the person/medication. It's totally weird how it happens to some but not others! As for the bad days, my doctor mentioned it might get worse for up to 7 days and then get better, but that was the first time I'd heard that, I'd still expected a day of awfulness and am hoping I'm in the clear! I start working Monday and school Wednesday and it would not be fun to suddenly be miserable on my first day of work! I do have a high pain tolerance and in comparison to the cases of tonsillitis I had in the fall where my throat swelled completely closed, this is a lot less painful, so maybe I'm just tolerating the pain well because I've had worse? Who knows, I'm just hoping I get better and not worse! Also, about your soft palate, did you have your adenoids out too? it could be residual scabbing/swelling/general healing from that surgery. I had my adenoids out too, and I've noticed a thicker-feeling soft palate in the morning when I'm more swollen. If not, is your uvula still swollen? maybe the whole area is swollen. I hope everything works out
As for the straw/no straw debate, I think it depends on your doctor, but if you're not sure, I'd say try and see how they feel, I don't feel any pressure on the back of my throat and think they feel better than tipping my head back, which still hurts a bit. If you feel a pulling pressure where your scabs are, I wouldn't use them. I guess it all depends on what your doctor suggests, but I like them and haven't had any problems, even when drinking a McDonald's milkshake, but everyone is different.
Day 8-Went to the doctor today. I was supposed to have an appointment three weeks after my surgery, but the doctor said it was fine for me to come in early since I'm moving an hour and a half away tomorrow! Apparently, my tonsils were 3.2 cm in diameter, that's HUGE! The PA said I looked good and really hydrated, but still had a lot of healing to do. He said I was doing surprisingly well with pain and explained what the healing process would be like over the next two weeks (throat pain for another week, week and a half, then some lingering ear pain, with my current scabs coming off over the next few days, then thinner white scabs taking their place, then finally pink again!) and warned me bleeding was still a slight risk. I gotta say, I knew this was a long healing process from the start, but I thought eating would be easier by now, but as it turns out, I've got a long road of mush ahead of me!
The papers I signed only said "tonsillectomy". My adenoids have never been mentioned at any appointment over the 4 years I've been seeing my ENT. So, I assume they weren't removed. I should ask him about that at my next follow-up appointment in October.
I should also ask if he shaved off part of my uvula (maybe to keep me from choking on it). It was huge for awhile and had a ratty edge with that white "scab" on it. Now it's just a little bump on my soft palate. If he took part of my uvula, that could explain the soft palate swelling. If it's swollen, it'll go down in time. If not, I suppose I'll get used to it. It doesn't feel horrible...just weird.
Only one of my tonsils was enlarged. After surgery, the doctor told my husband that it was 10 times bigger than the other one, but I don't know what size a normal tonsil is, so I don't know how big it was in centimeters.
My instruction sheet said there would be ear pain for up to 10 days. Hoping to lessen any ear pain, I slept in a recliner for over a week. I don't know if that was the reason, but I never had any ear pain whatsoever. Chewing gum is also supposed to help relieve ear pain, but I found that it helped keep my throat nice and moist.
I think you'll be off of your mushy diet sooner than you think. Once things start getting better, they get better pretty fast. However, even after 5 weeks, I find that some foods still kind of want to stick to the back of my throat, but it's much easier to eat than it used to be. At first, it seemed to take me forever to eat anything. To keep certain foods from sticking, I'd take a tiny bite of food, chew, get some liquid into my mouth, and then swallow the food and liquid together. Time consuming, but it worked. The two easiest things I found to eat were instant mashed potatoes and (believe it or not) peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
I'm happy to hear that your recovery is going well. Best of luck as you begin work and school!