So I finally got a tonsillectomy, and here’s what happened

I’d been needing one for a very long time. I would get sore throats at least once every two months, and on a regular basis I would have this feeling of my tonsils being “full”. This meant that I would have to manually squeeze out white goo from their teeny tonsil-holes. Neglecting to do this meant, inevitably, another sore throat. Not fun.

So, approximately 12 days ago, I had the surgery.

The only surgery I’d had before this was getting my wisdom teeth removed, so I assumed the process would be similar. I’d heard horrific things about how painful recovering from a tonsillectomy for adults can be, and as a result did a bunch of reading online about other people’s experiences. Huge range. People kept telling me not to worry about the upcoming surgery, and I didn’t really worry about it at all. I did worry about the very light sore throat and headache that I, of course, had to develop a few days beforehand. Apparently that wasn’t enough to postpone the surgery though. Anyhow, I didn’t start stressing out until walking into the operating room and realizing that this was the first time I was ever in such a room (minus when I was born, I assume). Luckily they quickly pumped in the anesthesia, and I laid there feeling progressively more dopey, mostly by that point being annoyed that the last thing I would hear before passing out was the Rolling Stones that they happened to be playing at the time.

I remember nothing, and must admit that I find anesthesia a rather pleasant experience. I woke up to the sore throat I expected to have, along with the persistent headache, and was soon being fed, and then given, a cup of ice chips by the nurse. Josh was ushered in, hung out while I recovered from the anesthesia, and we then headed home.

I expected to be groggy and in horrific pain that day, but was mostly just tired, and the pain was no worse then a bad sore throat. This was helped by my diet of ice chips and Tylenol 3 with codeine. I found that chopping up ice in the blender, then adding gatorade, made an adequate throat-soothing drink. Apple juice worked well for that too. I believe day 1 was “watch the 6 hour Pride & Prejudice A&E miniseries” day. I purchased a Hulu subscription to get me through the after-surgery period, well worth it.

Sleeping the first night was vaguely nonexistent, as it was hard to be comfortable, hard to go without drinking water long enough to sleep, and once I did fall asleep, my mouth would more often than not fall open and I would end up breathing through it, drying out my throat. I default to sleeping with my mouth open at night, and suspected that might be a problem. I’d read some people suggest to set an alarm in the middle of the night to ensure you took your drugs every 4 hours, but I found that unnecessary, seeing how often I’d wake up anyways.

Day 2 was not dissimilar to day 1, though I ventured into the world of dairy with milk & yogurt popsicles, which were very good. Another “living on the couch” day. Throughout each day, I would also regularly gargle salt water, as that helped keep things clean and ease my worries about what little I was consuming possibly infecting the area. The area, by the way, looked completely disgusting. I had a teeny flashlight, I looked every day (several times, usually) to check the progress. Went from red & gross to white & gross to white & puffy & gross. Also, my uvula swelled up really big and tongue got a bit puffy as well. Super gross.

Day 3 was when things started going downhill. My dairy experiment from day 2 caught up to me, and I realized that I was not equipped to deal with the resulting phlegm. I also had the brilliant idea of attempting mashed potatoes, and later bread. Even light chewing was a horrific idea, as it killed every part of my mouth that was involved. Same with anything that involved my tongue. Plus, both bread and potatoes managed to get lodged in my tonsil-holes, which was both uncomfortable and very gross. So I gave up on non-liquids for the time being.

Day 4 was hell on wheels. I think it was a mix of my poor (read: nonexistent) diet catching up to me, the meds catching up to me, and who knows what else. I had a splitting headache that only got worse, along with some wicked nausea. I curled up crying for a few hours, I vomited into a bucket, ended up taking 2 ibuprofen on top of my regular dose of codeine, some of which may or may not have been lost in the vomiting, and just being in a semi-coma for the rest of the evening. It was pretty awful.

So, one reason I think I hadn’t perceived the pain from the tonsillectomy to be *that* bad is my history of horrific cramps. For a period of time in my life, I had, on a monthly basis, the sort of cramps where I would pop 4 pain pills at a time and curl up on the bed and cry my eyes out until they kicked in. I was useless for 2-3 days a month, and it’s a good thing that I was working from home at the time I was experiencing this because I don’t know how I would have managed being at a job in that condition. So, any pain I have now, I compare it to those cramps. Helps to put things in perspective. The day 4 pain was the only point where I felt the pain level to be equivalent to my old cramp pain.

After that, I started alternating between codeine and ibuprofen. The ibuprofen was more friendly on my stomach for sure. I also forced myself to be a bit better about having something in my stomach – I tried getting more applesauce and yogurt in there mostly.

So it’s been a slow but steady process of healing since Day 5. I watched an incredible amount of television in that span of time – I tried reading, but found it hurt my head, and wasn’t until week 2 that I could really do books again. I did manage to get some drawings done once the pain was a bit better. Day 7 (the following Monday) I started working again – partially. I had also planned on working from home, and it’s just me on my laptop catching up on things. I don’t think I did any actually programming until Tuesday or Wednesday.

Friday was my first day being able to eat solid food again. It was also the first day since the surgery that I pooped. I thought at first it was because I was on a mostly liquid diet. But no, pain pills constipate! TMI, but that first poop was horrific and awful and I highly recommend anyone in a similar situation have as many assistive medications as possible available to them to help with the poopening. Despite this, we ate pizza that night to celebrate. It took me 20 minutes to eat 2 teeny slices but it was delicious and worth it.

The ole intestines have been quite burbly since then, so I’ve been trying to get back into food in a healthy and fiber-rich manner. Well, minus the ice cream. Everyone says that you should eat lots of ice cream with a tonsillectomy because that’s one of the only things you can eat, but I never really wanted ice cream at that point. Right now, however, it’s amazing. I still feel like I have a pretty crappy sore throat, one that is taking it’s sweet time going away. I’ve done some walking this weekend, though, so I feel OK being active again, and plan on resuming doing Zumba next Saturday.

Also, it’s amazing what finally getting a full night’s sleep will do. I believe Friday was the first night I managed to sleep through my normal ‘wake up in the middle of the night in dire need of drugs’ pattern. As I started weaning myself off the drugs, I found that I could not give up on nighttime. I’d take either syrup or ibuprofen about 30 min before bed, and then wake up at 2am or 4am with my mouth hanging open and this horrific throbbing in the back of my throat. I’d get up, take pain medication as quickly as possible, woozily stumble back to bed fighting the waves of pain, and sit up in bed and wait out the pain until the painkillers kicked in and I could sleep again. This was also the morning process – even when I was trying to be back to work, I’d set my alarm, get up, take drugs, then sit in bed 30 minutes or so until the pain was minimal enough so I could get up.

I think some of this sounds really awful, and it definitely was at the time, but when you’re going through it you just push through and know it’s gonna be worth it. I might have another week or so before the sore throat goes away fully. And, apparently it takes up to a year to fully recover from surgery. But I look forward to far fewer sore throats, and am glad I got this done when I did.

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