LOCATION: Hampton, VA
I know what you’re thinking. Why would have a surgery EVER be on someone’s bucket list? Just as I said when I got stitches and crossed it off, my list isn’t necessarily about doing things that make me happy, but more so doing things for the experience. If someone were to tell me that they were scared to get stitches, I could easily say that it is no problem at all because the lidocaine takes away any and all feeling. Getting stitches was actually kind of fun! Would I have known this without getting them? Nope. Experience is knowledge.
How I have come to receive this tonsillectomy has been an ordeal in itself. Around mid-October, I got strep. After 10 days of antibiotics, I got it again. After 10 more days of antibiotics, I got it a third time. That’s right, 3 strep occurrences in 30 days.
In order for me to be able to go on my Mexico trip, I had to be placed on a round of antibiotics AND a Rocephin shot to knock out the infection. Which, by the way, Rocephin shots cause pain in your lower back for about 3 days after. That was not fun at all! I was told upon coming back from vacation, we could book my surgery. Lucky for me, the strep I was getting never once gave me a sore throat. However, it did drain me of every ounce of energy I could muster up. I found myself coming home from work just to lay in bed every night from 6 to 10pm. Weekends I found myself in bed all day. Even in Mexico, on vacation, I slept a good portion of the time. Strep + 4 different antibiotics in 30 days = a very sick, tired, person. So, while I do NOT want to have a surgery right now, this is a must just so I can feel normal and sane again. Then, as luck would have it, Christmas Eve, I got strep again for the fourth time, with only 6 days before surgery. With my surgeon away for the holiday I was left to go ahead and start my post-surgery antibiotics in hopes that it would clear up in time, which it did. Receiving my fourth strep case in less than 60 days meant I was making the right choice with this surgery. My health depended on getting these negative suckers out! Needless to say, I was super nervous and sitting around the house with strep did not help matters as I couldn’t get my mind off the surgery and the upcoming pain I was about to experience. However, I did equip myself with all the things I felt like I would need over the course of 2 weeks.
The doctor also told me that I would be unable to eat spicy food for 3 months post op due to irritation, therefore my final dinners consisted of some spicy chicken wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and spicy Pad Thai from a local restaurant. I’m ready to kick these tonsils out!
I must say that the internet is a blessing as well as a curse. While I was able to prepare myself fully, I also scared myself by looking up all the complications and stories from people on their horrific recoveries. With my surgery being at 730am and an arrival time of 530am, I slept about 30 minutes tops from all the worrying. I arrived at the hospital more anxious than sleepy. From 530 to 730, my time was spent checking in, taking vitals, and going over any last minute questions I had. Everyone that came in asked what I was having and I’m not sure if it was for my cognitive benefit or theirs so that they did the right procedure. Finally after receiving an IV in my hand (which sucks by the way) I was ready to be wheeled to the OR. A nurse gave me something to calm my nerves and it must have worked wonders because I was asleep from that before the anesthesiologist came back to administer his drugs. I remember being wheeled into the room. Getting onto the OR table and them saying they were waiting on the surgeon to scrub in. Next thing I know, I’m covered in blankets (apparently I shivered throughout the whole surgery) and was being wheeled into recovery.
I totally expected to feel absolutely awful from the surgery but found that swallowing wasn’t really that bad. My ear pain was excruciating, but I started sucking on ice chips immediately. They gave me some super strong meds and I was able to relax a little. Luckily since I showed I was taking water fairly well I was able to leave earlier than I thought. I got home, propped up on pillows and had two popsicles. The doctor said I would be fairly pain free the first day, so I’m really hoping it doesn’t get incredibly worse over the next two weeks of recovery. My uvula is swollen all the way to my tongue and there are black burn like marks where my tonsils used to be. I can’t believe the amputation of my infected tonsils is already over. What a relief!! Day 1 is optimistic so far. I’ll track my progress for a final post later on. Thinking positively seems to be the smart route for now…oh and lots of ice chips from Sonic!
NOW ON TO WHAT HAPPENED AFTER DAY 1!
What I learned after my first full day after surgery is that hydrocodone works really well. I noticed about 30 minutes before my next dose, I was in a lot of pain around a 6 or 7. Ten minutes after taking meds I was already back down to a 2 or 3 and could sleep for maybe an hour. Sleeping is hard! I feel like I wake every 15 minutes just to concentrate on swallowing. Ice packs around my neck work wonders. Ice pellets from Sonic are hugely satisfying and easier to get down than drinking liquids. I’ve managed to eat four popsicles and three small bowls of jello and I’m absolutely starving. It’s a huge chore to eat and those seem to be the easiest at the moment. Also, my parents are totally amazing nurses and are on top of everything. Aside from the fact they really suck at charades, which is how I am communicating, they have set the bar high for providing everything I need exactly when I need it most. Right now, in my drugged haze, I feel as if there is a large, painful lump in my throat and no adequate swallow can suffice it.
Day 2: I’d say the throat pain remains the same. Today, my tonsil areas were still black but we’re forming the normal white hue around the edges. Pretty soon I would have the scabs to look forward to. Aside from my normal throat pain, I developed horrific headaches that would set in about an hour before the end of my 4 hour med cycle. They were seriously the worst migraines I’ve ever felt in my life.
I also have this general flu like feeling. I stuck with jello and popsicles today. Sorbet coated my throat and made me cough too much. I did manage to eat two pancakes later in the day. I had to break them down to bite size bits and they barely tasted like pancakes at that point, but I also didn’t feel as hungry. Around 2pm, I developed a fever of 101.9. Apparently this is somewhat normal after surgery, but it freaked me out, so I tried my best to drink more water through the choking pain. OH and Happy New Year!!! Haha
Day 3: Today was more painful than the first two days as I was coming off a med cycle. I noticed I couldn’t even eat jello without the medicine kicking in first. I still have a fever, but other than that, just more of the same stuff. I ate some kidney beans today in hopes to up my fiber intake.
I’ve also noticed I don’t really do much throughout the day. I figured I would be watching all kinds of movies, but nope! First hour of meds I eat/drink. Then I sleep for two hours, or sleep for one, and watch tv for one, then the last hour I sit with ice packs on my face in pain waiting to take my meds. Sleeping has gotten much easier, as I don’t wake every 15 minutes. This is probably because I’m used to the swallowing feeling by now.
Day 4: Today was just like yesterday however my fever is now down to 99 degrees. Hoping it doesn’t get worse than this. I’ve developed a pretty decent routine now so I’m not hungry anymore, or, my body has gotten used to the starvation! Either way, it’s nice to not have the hunger pains anymore.
Day 5: My 3:30am med cycle woke me with incredible pain in my ears, neck and throat. The horrible days were about to begin! Luckily the most pain I had was early in the morning. The rest of the day was just like the rest. I felt a little dizzy today, probably from lack of calories, so I decided to get my first chocolate milkshake since the surgery.
The sugar burned my throat a little bit, but was tasty. I’m not sure how people do so much ice cream when it burns like it did. It was also too thick and just sticks around in the throat making it hard to swallow. I guess the calories were good, but I’ll stick to my Gatorades as much as possible!
Day 6: Pretty much like the rest, however, my fever is officially gone. I was going stir crazy so dad took me to see the movie “The Gambler.” While the movie was not good, getting out of the house was.
I even took a Gatorade, pancake and beans with me. By far the weirdest combination of food ever in a theater! After, I had a strawberry slush from Sonic that went over much better than the milkshake did. Was able to do Mac and cheese for dinner as well. Good food day indeed!
Day 7: Well, at 2am, it started. The scabs are slowly coming off. I woke to a sharp pop like feeling in the roof of my mouth and the feeling like I needed to spit mucus out. My throat continues to sting a little more than it has. I didn’t feel another popping sensation until 5am, but again, it was the same outcome. However, that was the last I feeling of the pop sensation. I felt pain the remainder of the day but that was it.
Day 8: A lot of the same pain from yesterday and still no more scab removals. Really wishing this would start so it will be over soon.
Day 9: Well, guess what? The exact same recovery as yesterday that’s what! However, today I’m sad as my ice pack, the one my surgery nurse sent home with me and was made for a one time use only is officially broken.
I used that thing like a security blanket. It really never left my face. I even slept with it on my neck or over my aching ear. What made it so much better than a regular ice pack was that it never once got super cold, so I was able to use it for long periods of time. Regular ice packs, even with towels covering them just aren’t the same. Sleep tonight just won’t be the same.
Day 10: Pretty much the same as the rest of the days. I did cut back on some of my pain med doses and took 4 instead of 6. I found I really need them in order to eat. Seriously, is this over yet?
Day 11: I’ve noticed that the throat pain is getting better. It feels as if I have a cold/sore throat going on. The ear pain in the morning is really bad. I also need to take meds to be able to eat, but that is it.
Day 12: Same as yesterday. I took a picture of my throat today. While I still have scabs, I noticed they are less and I had no idea! I thought the scabs were supposed to fall off and you cough them out, but I haven’t done that or swallowed any at all. It almost looks like it’s just disintegrating instead of flaking off. Considering the most pain is when they “fall” off, I’ll take the slow disintegrating scabs instead! Two of my friends came to visit me today. Luckily, I’ve been able to progress to more solid-ish type food. We went for Pho for dinner. I put a few ice cubes in my soup to take the heat off and voila, I could eat! After about 5 bites, I was full though. This not eating much thing really shrank my stomach capabilities. Too bad I haven’t even lost a single pound from this…which is really weird! I whispered so much to talk to my friends that by the end of the night I was sore and completely worn out. This recovery is no joke!
Day 13: More of the same as before. Thankful that it isn’t as painful as some have experienced, but definitely ready for this to be over.
Day 14: Today is the official “recovery” point. They say it takes about 14 days to recover. I can tell that I’m going to be taking a little bit more time. I tried to talk today, not only does that still hurt but I sound super funny too. It was like a squeaky doll with a lisp! Hopefully my voice returns to normal soon. Right now I’m able to eat much more but nothing tastes good or appetizing at all. I usually find something and can’t finish it because I’m full or it doesn’t taste that great. Hopefully that changes back to normal as well. I still have some scabs in my throat but they are slowing diminishing a little at a time.
Day 15: The doctor wrote me another large RX for pain meds. I don’t feel like I need them all the time as the pain is tolerable, but I do need at least a half dose to eat without it severely hurting. I also take a full dose before bed just so I can fall asleep without the ear pain. I really can’t believe the ear pain is this prevalent still, but it is. I finally drove today too, that was refreshing! However, running errands and having to talk to people without them understanding me very well is frustrating to say the least.
Day 16-23: Considering most of my days are being lumped together now in how I’m feeling I’ll just group them until some significant change happens. I think I’m starting to build a resistance to the pain meds because instead of making me very very tired, they now give me a jolt of energy. I’m not doing well with sleep at night, so maybe not taking any meds before bed is the way to go. However, that also means more pain in the morning. Either way, all that has been on my mind is “CHIPS CHIPS CHIPS CHIPS CHIPS.” It’s all I want and definitely can’t have for a while. My taste buds are still off. I tried a soda and thought it had gone bad. My mom confirmed that it was fine, so I guess I still taste things off occasionally.
Day 24: First day going back to work. My voice is still somewhat gone, which made talking difficult. I’m actually surprised it hasn’t come back to its full strength yet too. I sound really nasally. Everyone pulled me aside to talk to me about my surgery and recovery. I walked around and stood a good portion of the day. Considering it was a full day of doing this, I was pretty exhausted by 1pm. I came home, ate and laid around the rest of the night. Really glad I got that 3rd week of recovery to rest up before doing this.
Day 25-28: Mostly the same stuff happening. My voice is still slightly above a whisper. My swallowing feels forced occasionally and sometimes while breathing, it feels like my uvula is being thrown into the back of my throat. It’s not, but the sensation is there and it feels creepy.
Day 29: Today is POST OP day. I arrived and there was immediate concern that my voice wasn’t back yet. Apparently that isn’t so normal after all! The doctor proceeded to spray a numbing agent in my nose so he could send a scope down my nose and look at my voice box. Either the numbing agent did not work at all, or I was extremely sensitive to the scope, but it felt SUPER weird. It felt like I was gagging the entire time as well. He said that my vocal cords were inflamed and that over time they should get better. He said that the breathing tube could have damaged it and then me whispering made it worse. Apparently, whispering is extremely bad for you as it strains the muscles. Who knew! Kinda wish that was told to me from the start. He said that I should hum daily to release tension on the muscles, but if my voice isn’t back within 3 weeks I’ll need to go to a speech therapist. So, here’s hoping I get my voice back! Other than that, he said that my throat was healing much better than some, probably due to the humidifier. Another point that they should probably tell people! Hopefully this strep thing is finally done. At least I’ll never be able to get tonsillitis again!
Day 30: Recovery DONE! Now…hopefully my voice comes back with all the humming I’m about to do.
MY SURGERY SURVIVAL KIT
Juices (preferably lower in sugar for less irritation, and non citrus)
Aloe Vera Juice (speeds healing, and coats the throat really well)
Spoonful of coconut oil (speeds healing and lubricates the scabs)
Green Machine juice
Scrambled eggs with cheese
Mac and Cheese
Humidifier (keeps the air moist so your mouth doesn’t open while sleeping)
Lots of pillows (sleep propped up. Reduces swelling)
Ice packs (to reduce swelling)
Crushed Ice from Sonic (LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS AND LOTS)
Netflix, Spotify, Books, Phone, DVD, Magazines, Card games.
THINGS I LEARNED THROUGH THIS PROCEDURE
– Sugar hurts a lot. Not sure why it burns, but it does.
– DO NOT WHISPER! It will damage your vocal cords. Do not talk at all for that matter. It hurts. Write everything down.
– A humidifier was the best thing I ever did for myself. I really think my recovery was smoother due to it.
– Sleep elevated. It helps with the swelling and does not give the choking sensation you get when you lie flat.
– Take your meds on time, every time. The pain comes fast!
– Ice packs work wonders and really helps with the ear pain.
– Yawning hurts SO bad!!
– Sonic ice chips are the best
– Hydrate with 8oz of liquid after each med dose when it’s the easiest to take. It ensures you’re getting plenty of liquids this way.
– You WILL need round the clock care the first 4 days. I don’t know how I would have managed without my parent’s help. When the meds start to wear off, you will be in no mood to fix your next dose and food and drink to go with it. I think I finally started going downstairs to hang out around day 5.
*Thank you Mom and Dad for accompanying me on this adventure by TAKING CARE OF ME!!!! Also thank you to ALL of my wonderful friends for the support you have given!