Tonsillectomy: What You Can Learn From Mine to Survive Yours

Word to the wise, if a doctor even hints that your child may need a tonsillectomy, just do it then and there. The sooner, the better. If you love your child even just the smallest amount, you will do it.
It’s pretty well-known that an adult tonsillectomy is way more painful than when children have the surgery. A doctor told me in high school I’d eventually need my tonsils taken out. Why didn’t he take them then?? So I learned the painful way how to handle the 2-3 weeks of pain following a tonsillectomy.

Long (like, really long) story short, I was talking to a friend about how terrible I sleep, and how hard it is for me to catch my breath when working out, and she suggested I go to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) doctor.  She had the same issues and had a deviated septum, that once fixed, solved everything.

At the appointment, I was blown away by how many of the symptoms they asked about I checked off the list. Sleepy? Cranky? Irritable? Hard to focus? It goes on and on, and some of those may be character traits, but regardless, things started to make sense right there.  They then stuck a really uncomfortable probe up my nose to look in my throat. Results? My adenoids and tonsils were huge. Kinda knew that.  Also, adults shouldn’t really have adenoids anymore so the fact that mine were huge….Anyways, he said we had to do a sleep test for insurance purposes to see if it was affecting my sleep. Huge eye roll from me on that one because, duh, it’s affecting my sleep, that’s why I’m so cranky all the time! Or maybe that’s just me.

I did the stupid at home sleep test and definitely slept like crap.  Seriously, who is able to get a normal night’s sleep with all this gear on?



Follow up appointment, I have slight sleep apnea, because my tonsils and adenoids are blocking my airway. Time to yank ’em out. I strategically scheduled my surgery after my birthday and when my mom could come take care of me.  I honestly probably would have thought I could go without my mom if I didn’t have diabetes. I just wanted her to watch my blood sugars while I was in surgery. This was a bad assumption. You need your mom. Or your dad. Or a significant other. No matter what. There is no circumstance in which you should attempt this alone at all. Just a ride home from the hospital from a roommate is not enough.

The day before surgery my mom arrived and we had a last meal at Olive Garden.  I never ever eat there because it is WAY too many carbs, but I knew I wasn’t going to be eating for a while so went all out and ate every last carb I could find. I won’t go into detail on how bad that screwed with my stomach. But it was delicious and that’s all that matters.

Surgery day I barely remember.  I don’t even remember falling asleep on the table.  I slightly remember waking up and someone giving me a pain pill (highlight of the day?) and then my mom giving me some vitamin water and trying to get me to drink it at home. When I finally came to that evening, I didn’t feel right. I felt like puking, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t swallow…I’m pretty sure I had a full on anxiety attack. Thinking back, I may have just panicked.

Anyways, my mom took me to the ER, where I was finally admitted at like, 4 am. After the surgery, the doctor had put a local anesthetic on the back of my throat that lasted 3 days, and somehow it was making me produce a lot of mucus I was unable to swallow. So I spit. For three days.

I spent those three days in the hospital and I can’t exactly tell you what I did for three days.  I watched one movie, but not really any TV. I didn’t read or text.  I just, stared at the wall.  And spit.  I hardly slept either because I very rarely was allowed any pain medicine or anti-inflammatory. It really varied depending on the nurse. So when I had that relief for a few hours I slept a little, but that’s about it. I also didn’t eat. At all. I couldn’t swallow so I didn’t eat. And I wasn’t hungry. For three days.  What the what? I can usually only go three minutes without being hungry!

At the hospital, I somehow got a picture of my wonderful accommodations.

And on the third day…I went home. Finally. And miraculously I stopped needing to spit. My mom mixed some Percoset with some vitamin water and I was set. FINALLY some pain relief and a nap! She also changed her flight to stay a week instead of the three days she was originally going to stay.  Thank the Lord, because I definitely needed it.

Here’s what the doctor failed to mention:

  1. You are literally OUT for two weeks.  At the minimum.  It’s not two weeks of pain, it’s two weeks of doing nothing.  I couldn’t even concentrate to work from home.
  2. Set an alarm for every 4 hours to take pain meds. If you don’t, you will wake up feeling like death for an hour, and have to ice your face while you wait for the pain meds to kick in again.  And that’s if you can swallow them.
  3. The swelling is what causes the most pain/discomfort.  When I left the hospital they gave me an anti-inflammatory to take for five days, but only five because it can cause liver issues.  Let me tell you, I rationed that like no other. It was better than the pain meds and helped me to sleep.
  4. Even protein shakes hurt going down. You can literally only have things with absolutely no texture.  Popsicles are clutch.
  5. When you do start eating solids, and by solids I mean mashed potatoes, it will take at least 30 minutes to eat half a cup.  You are going to have to learn to eat again.
  6. Your blood sugars will be the best you’ve ever seen them, because you aren’t eating!
  7. Forget talking. You’ll maybe whisper for 2 weeks. Then have half a voice for the next two.
  8. And don’t even try to whisper close to someone’s face.  Your breath will be bad. Really bad. Like my mom wanted to call my doctor because she thought something was wrong bad.
  9. Once you can eat something solid again, DO NOT BINGE. DO NOT EAT JUNK FOOD. DO NOT GO CRAZY. Because your body has not had this crap for so long, it can’t handle it.  Guess who threw up chicken wings and fries her first night eating solid food??? (But seriously, tell me you wouldn’t be craving these wings either).

I’m pretty sure I blacked out the three weeks after my tonsillectomy. I really remember very little.  My mom somehow moved me into a new home. I definitely could not have survived without her.

Was it worth it? Definitely.

According to my Pillow app on my Apple Watch, my sleep quality has drastically improved.  Also, I can work out!  Granted, it’s been slow getting back into it after first breaking my wrist and then having the surgery soon after that healed. But I can feel it when I run or get my heart rate up.  Air can actually flow through my nose and into my lungs.  It’s almost liberating. If you need a tonsillectomy, you should get it done, but really be ready. I thought I had a high pain tolerance, but definitely fell to the mercy of tonsillectomy pain. Again, the younger the surgery, the less painful the recovery (at least with a tonsillectomy) so if there’s even a remote possibility tonsils are affecting your child, just get them taken out and save them the pain later.



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