The Tonsil Diaries | What to expect when you’re expecting a Tonsillectomy *



*Warning: The cynicism in this article may offend some sensitive readers.  If you are likely to be offended by an article , which makes light of a serious medical procedure please hover off my webpage and surf on over to a less interesting page on the web. Or alternatively, you can hover over to my house and I will show you why I have become so cynical!

On the eve of my son returning to school after almost two weeks off following his tonsillectomy I have a confession to make.  I am by far the worst mother on the planet.  I completely and utterly regret putting my child through this excruciating operation.  Two weeks down the line and I am still struggling with a five year old-newborn who complains of pain pretty much every hour and I am completely helpless.

I am incredibly nervous that my son won’t have the strength to make it through the school day tomorrow.  But to be brutally honest, neither will I if we spend another day together.  I figure if he’s well enough to kick me in the shins for not buying an ice cream and well enough to scream his lungs out every time I answer my phone, then he sure as hell is well enough to slog it through a few hours at grade school.

So, come tomorrow, I’ll be letting him loose on the big wide world, hopeless, fearless, careless and tonsil-less.

In the meantime, I’m writing this post as a word of warning to parents who may be contemplating the surgery.  Take this post as the ‘heads up’ that I never got.  Sure, I knew there was going to be some pain involved.  I figured my son would be off school for a week at most and would need to eat ice cream and jelly and chilling with me like a little sidekick.  Heck, I was actually looking forward to spending some quality time with my first-born and checking out of life for a couple of days.  I thought I knew what to expect because my younger son has had three operations for grommets – a veteran operation mother, if you will.  When I opted in for the tonsillectomy and adenectomy I thought I was doing the prudent thing and making the right decision.  How could I possibly go wrong? – I had been told over a year ago that my son’s tonsils were absolutely massive and absolutely had to come out. Why? Because they were obstructing his breathing, leading to sleep apnea with a flow-on effect of beyond bad behavior during the day being the direct result of accumulated sleep deprivation.  Clearly, a no brainer.  So after contemplating the surgery and listening to my son complain of a sore throat and waking me up every night without fail for 5.5 years, I gave the OK for the Ear Nose and Throat Surgeon to take my son’s tonsils to task.  Epic Fail  – for now at least. My kid absolutely hates me and I hate myself. I feel even guiltier when people try to reassure me that the operation will benefit us “in the long-run”.  I’m starting to wonder when that “long-run” is and how far off we are from getting there, because I don’t think we can bear much more.  Let’s just say, my patience with this patient is lower than acceptable levels of patience for a parent.

If you have no idea what to expect – expect the worst. Anything better than that is a bonus. If you think this operation is similar to a grommet or adenoid operation you’ve got a whole new world ahead of you.

Here are some nuggets of information which you may not be aware of but which may help you to manage if you decide to go ahead with your child’s tonsillectomy:

  • The tonsillectomy is not for the faint-hearted. Do your research and be sure that you’re up for the challenge – there really is no going back – unless of course there is bleeding or dehydration post-op – in either of those two cases  – there definitely will be going back.
  • If you have a boss or a full-time job or some semblance of a social life you might want to quit or do some calendar shuffles because life as you know it is over for at least one to two weeks.
  • If you think you have a demanding, annoying, whiney or naggy child now, wait. A degree in neonatal nursing will not be enough to get you through the round-the-clock demands of your new little patient.
  • Even though the tonsil op has nothing to do with the ears, your child can get what’s called “referred pain” in the ears. This pain must be unbearable because my son complains of this every time he swallows or chews and he wakes up every hour at night with severe discomfort – to put it mildly.
  • Coming out of the anesthetic expect nothing ordinary.  Some kids (mine included) wake up from the surgery like little demons – screaming, thrashing, contorting spitting up blood and cursing like an incandescent pirate.  This apparently is normal and eventually wears off, around about the time that the parents are in tears and covered in post-op goop and ready to order the earliest available exorcist to the scene.
  • The bad breath takes you by surprise and this lasts for around five days from memory.  Thank goodness it subsides after seven days because I was starting to think up back-up plans for when my son starts dating if that dragon breath were to have hung around!  Chewing gum helps – but only so much as the child can bear the chewing. I should know – most of it is now comically stuck underneath my glass coffee table and there are several bits that should come out of my hair if I ever get a chance to wash it again.
  • Thanks to my highly educated doctor friend (my son’s good friend’s dad and also my main savior last week!) I found out that the child’s pain will actually spike up not down on around day five of the post-operation period so that your child will be far worse almost a week after the procedure.  And no – they do not prescribe Morphine for kids who’ve had their tonsils out.
  • There are no painkillers for the mothers when that pain in your neck has reached its capacity.  In fact, I completely lost my appetite because my child screamed with pain every time he tried to eat.  It’s a helpless process which takes its strain and strips away at you day by day.
  • The sleep-over at the hospital will not be five-star, bed and breakfast with a turn-down service in the early evening and a mint under your pillow – you will be on call as if your life depended on it and you’ll be lucky to catch a break to shower or go to the toilet.  Your only free time will be the twenty minutes it takes for the anesthetic to last.  Then, you’re done.
  • There will be no souvenirs or mementos to take away with you after this ‘excursion’.  The anecdotal tales of bringing your tonsils home in a jar so that you can proudly show them off to your colleagues and school mates are either pure fiction or just not in vogue.  Either way, you’ll be lucky if you leave the hospital with your sanity in tact.
  • If you’ve ever wanted to relive the feeling of caring for a newborn without actually delivering a new newborn – this is a great way to simulate that feeling.  Except your post-op tonsil-free baby won’t be nearly as cute and cuddly as your nostalgic newborn memories. These grade school size newborns can lay on the guilt and scream the house down like nobody’s business.
  • Be prepared to surrender to things you wouldn’t normally do for your child for the sake of precious, rare peace.  This relaxed approach is similar to the “music to soothe the savage beast” analogy – with the “music” being unlimited iPhone access, chocolate or bubblegum for breakfast, drinking a sip of Coca Cola or coffee on the sly and the “beast” being the offspring you barely recognise and are finding difficult to love as the days go by.

In short, I really don’t think I’m exaggerating.  These tonsils have taken their toll and me and my kid.

So – I invite you to leave me a comment on the blog about your tonsillectomy experience.  Unless of course you’ve had a good tonsillectomy experience – a dreamy, trance-like, painless, 24 hour recovery.  If that is the case, then I absolutely do not want to hear from you – not for now at least. The tonsil beds are still raw – the least you can do is wait for the scabs to fall off. Soon.



2 thoughts on “The Tonsil Diaries | What to expect when you’re expecting a Tonsillectomy *

  1. Sounds like its the pain before the gain.

    You have absolutely done the right thing. Anything that disturbs sleep needs to be addressed not just for a happy household but also because sleep disturbances would have had a long term effect on his growth, development, and health in every other way. You have done the right thing.

    But what I have found so far in parenting, is that you have to suffer short term for any long term good results. We endure childbirth in order to hold a snuggly sweet smelling newborn in our arms, we endure the 3 nights of protest when we teach our babies to sleep through the night and then again when we wean them. So you are enduring a horrendous few weeks in order to reap the benefits of a 5 year old being able to breathe well and rest well, for the rest of his life.

    I finally got my tonsils out when I was 13 after years of problems and once I recovered I felt like a completely different person. I had an appetite, I grew, I slept and I wasn’t miserable anymore. If my child grows up to have the same problem, I would get them removed pronto.

    Hang in there…I look forward to your post saying it was worth it…you will be typing it before you know it. Call in the grandparents for a bit so you can have a break.

    • Ana-hi! Thanks for the words of moral support – I am holding onto them tight – especially since we never made it past 1pm at school. These tonsils are nasty little critters aren’t they?! Thanks so much for reading and drop me a line any time. Xx

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