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I spoke too soon

May 27, 2011

The joy of opiates notwithstanding, this tonsillectomy is kicking me to the curb. I can’t sleep for long because I wake up with a start and a snort, feeling as if I’m drowning in my own throat secretions. I can’t eat ice cream or popsicles or much of anything (stings, hurts, impossible to get down, not worth the trouble), swallowing is a torment (the muscles don’t seem to work, or else the new space in my throat where the tonsils used to be mucks everything up; half the time when I swallow I choke, the other half I get water up my nose) and I’ve got a fever. And I ache. And my neck is massively bloated and tender, so I look as if I have gout. (I mean, goiter. I woke up a few days after writing this realizing that gout was wrong, and then it took me a couple more days to remember that I meant goiter.) Anyway, I’m a vision of loveliness.

Being sick makes me nervous. I always worry I’m going to be culled from the herd. So I am trying to be patient and calm, but in addition to feeling wretched physically I’m worried I’m somehow not holding up my end of things as far as the rest of the world goes. (With all this faux-heroin, who can keep track of pesky baseball games?) So far, the kids have been great. This is easy to say since I’ve hardly seen them; they’ve been practically adopted by various other families, which is equally great. Friends came by at intervals yesterday bringing jello, frozen slushies, and good cheer, and today consoling-windows friend got out of bed (per my urgent text request) at dawn to pick up some anti-nausea prescription medicine and bring it over.

And my boyfriend will be here soon, though I cannot speak or smile and I doubt I’m much fun to be around, and he’ll have to sleep in the guest room anyway because I am up and down and up and down all night, trying to take pain medication without gagging, trying to drink water, trying to get back to sleep. I hope he’s not expecting me to be charming and vivacious.

If anyone has been through this, and has good things to say, let me know. All you get on Google is how it’s worse than childbirth, etc etc etc. And so far, Google is right. It’s certainly of longer duration, and I’ve got miles to go before I heal.

36 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris permalink
    May 27, 2011 2:45 pm

    My 10 yr old had her tonsils and adenoids out last year and it was pretty awful to recover from. It took her 2 full weeks to bounce back but it got better every day and she never even brings it up now.

  2. May 27, 2011 2:50 pm

    Sadly, no. Been there done that and no, nothing good to say.

    Well, I can say that it WILL get better. It won’t last forever!

  3. wild guess permalink
    May 27, 2011 2:56 pm

    This may or may not be useful, but for an alternative vision of tonsil pain — and a list of culinary ideas — try this:

    …apparently watermelon juice is great if the throat pain is from radiation. Does it work for tonsillectomy? no idea. but might be worth a try! with some of the other options…

    …plus perhaps you can take heart that your throat will get better faster than her throat.

  4. May 27, 2011 3:16 pm

    One thought, depending on the severity of the fever, have you called your doc regarding said fever? My 4.5 year old son had his tonsils (and adenoids) out last month and we were instructed to bring him to the ER if he got a post-surgery fever. He had a very challenging recovery and actually ended up in the hospital overnight, a week after his surgery, due to dehydration and bleeding.

    A couple of things that we found with his recovery were:
    -Dehydration makes the pain much worse. You don’t really need food for awhile, but you absolutely do need to drink something.
    – It was vital that he take pain medication at the prescribed intervals. We kept up a regular schedule until about 2 weeks post surgery.
    -Once he felt like eating he actually preferred savory foods to sweet (which is abnormal for him – he is usually very enthusiastic about smoothies/popsicles/ice cream). He preferred to eat things like slightly warm mashed potatoes and very soft mac & cheese. Contrary to popular advice he said that cold things irritated his throat more.

    Good luck. The recovery really sucked at our house, but it has been so worth it. Our son needs less sleep at night now (the enlarged tonsils were causing sleep apnea), his allergies are better, he has more energy, and hasn’t been sick in six weeks which is record for him.

  5. irretrievablybroken permalink*
    May 27, 2011 4:09 pm

    It’s like my swallowing mechanism is broken–not just sore, it really is physically HARD to get the liquid to go down the right way. Slightly thicker stuff is easier. Watermelon juice sounds wonderful but would make me choke just like water, I bet.

    I know re the pain meds–they make me feel sick, so I dread them, but they’re necessary. Honestly, I feel like a real wimp. I thought I would bounce right back.

  6. Alienne permalink
    May 27, 2011 5:11 pm

    My sister had her wisdom teeth out one week and her tonsils out the next when she was 21. She’d waited so long for both there was no way she was delaying either operation! As far as I remember the tonsils knocked her back for about a week but she was fine after that. You will live, really.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 27, 2011 6:02 pm

      I know, and thank you. I’m being weak and pathetic about this all. And it’s not like the world can’t use a break from my TALKING for a few days. Perhaps things have felt a little bit calmer and more serene today, just in general, all over the planet? That’s me, not making noise and being annoying.

  7. farawayreader permalink
    May 27, 2011 6:24 pm

    I, like you and loathe being sick, it sends me into a bad depression on top of being sick.
    I am also a nervous nelly but please watch your fever and dehydration, it sneaks up out of nowhere. Dehydration makes you feel even worse on top of everything.
    I have heard adult tonsil removal described as hell on earth for adults so I believe every word you are describing. Feel better soon ( and if you don’t call your Dr ! )

  8. farawayreader permalink
    May 27, 2011 6:26 pm

    I meant to say I, like you, loathe being sick…

    but I do like you, in a blogger/reader sense 🙂

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 27, 2011 11:24 pm

      Oh, the feeling is completely mutual, in a blogger/reader/two people who loathe being sick! I was told fever was normal, I am on antibiotics already…anyway, I’m hoping tonight will be better. It won’t last forever…

  9. Celeste permalink
    May 27, 2011 6:29 pm

    My friend’s daughter had them out at age 10, and they were told french fries were the best thing because they’re salty and will make you want to drink. Between the fever and the difficulty in swallowing, though, I wonder if it’s worth a phone call just to make sure they don’t need you to come in for an antibiotic.

    I hope you see some improvement soon. Recovery sucks.

  10. Ellie permalink
    May 27, 2011 8:46 pm

    From a swallowing point of view you are right – thicker liquids such as nectar juice are easier to swallow (think apricot nectar, mango juice, jello…). Would sleeping propped up on pillows help with the drowning in secretions? I really hope you feel better soon! I had to care for my daughter when she had her tonsils removed and it took me 90 minutes each time to give her her medication (bitter Tylenol and codeine). Let’s say I stopped it sooner then later. It really changed our lives for the better though!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 2:34 pm

      I keep thinking, every time I gag down the horrible stinging bitter medicine (which really, really BURNS) “Thank god I’m not having to force some recalcitrant CHILD to take this.” Because my children were horrid medicine takers even with the stuff that tastes good. You’d have called Child Protective Services if you’d seen me giving them penicillin–I basically put them in straitjackets and sat on them, forced their jaws open, pinched their noses so they couldn’t breathe, etc etc. Not nice.

  11. May 27, 2011 9:28 pm

    I am so sorry. Hang in there. I don’t have any experience wtih anything like it, but I can imagine it must be painful and exhausting. Thank God for neighbors, friends and understanding kids. I hope you feel better soon. I’m impressed that you’re actually posting 🙂 That’s got to be a good sign, no?

  12. May 28, 2011 9:32 am

    Sending good wishes to you over the ether! I hope that your recovery is unusually fast–it seems only fair, since your tonsils were unusually, um, dramatic, right?

  13. May 28, 2011 9:39 am

    In an act of simpatico, we’re down with strep over here. While I’m sure it’s not nearly as debilitating, we are drinking fluids with you and sending healing thoughts from California…feel better I.B.

  14. Alison Cross permalink
    May 28, 2011 11:38 am

    oh you poor thing! I got my tonsils and adenoids out when I was just a little ‘un and I recall it being particularly rotten – but then my tonsils were so ruined that my health immediately perked up after they were taken out. I have no idea what issues my adenoids were presenting – I think that it was just the fashion to whup both things out at the same time.

    Am currently under the weather from gallbladder surgery – feeling sorry for myself and aching every time I try to do something tricky, like bend in the middle. I’m sure that this time next month we will be laughing about it! (((hug)))

    Ali x

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 2:30 pm

      Your surgery is much worse than mine–poor you–but yes, let’s think ahead to next month and how much better we’ll be feeling! xxx

  15. May 28, 2011 5:43 pm

    Yuck. All I’ve got is a story about how my grandmother (the Christian Scientist no less) had her tonsils out as an adult and the anesthesia wore off halfway through the operation, but they had to keep going. What a nightmare. And the doctor told her later after the hideous recovery that “I wouldn’t have let someone do that to me!” which is charming. So at least you didn’t have to feel the actual operation happening! Yay?

    Okay I got nothin’, but I vote you rent some really distracting movies–or better yet a whole series of something on television that you’ve never seen–and at some point things will be better.

    Get well soon.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 2:31 pm

      OH god your poor grandmother. I’m clutching my throat in agony contemplating it.

      I’m so doped up that staring at the wall and drooling is my main entertainment. Duh.

  16. mellie permalink
    May 28, 2011 9:33 pm

    Re throat muscles seizing up I don’t know if this really works or not but in Bird by Bird Anne Lamott writes about being advised to chew gum–excruciating pain but it fixed the problem. Don’t know if that helps, hurts, is true or even timely but I at least appreciate the original source of the information….

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 11:40 am

      I have been chewing gum (I remember that part of Bird by Bird!) and it does help. Doesn’t “fix” stuff yet but definitely helps.

  17. Rachel permalink
    May 29, 2011 8:20 am

    Sorry you are feeling awful. Here they told us after my then 6 year old’s tonsillectomy – no jello, no icecream, TOAST instead. The roughness of the toast scours away the mucus/pus collection inside your throat and helps reduce risk of infection as well as making your throat seem clearer quicker. We followed this and her recovery was very quick.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 11:44 am

      Oh my god, even if that were the key to everything I couldn’t do it. I can’t even swallow stuff like applesauce w/out much careful planning, and it hurts like fuck, each bite takes forever, gets stuck in the back of my throat and aches and stings (I guess my throat muscles are all out of whack), clings to the big open wounds and hurts (I have not dared to look yet, but from pictures on the internet I gather that’s whats back there) etc. I am absolutely famished and would love nothing more than a big fat plate of buttery, delicious, hot toast. But I wouldn’t be able to do it. Cream of wheat was worth the six or seven hours it took me to eat a small bowl, however.

  18. Susan permalink
    May 29, 2011 2:07 pm

    Dehydration will thicken secretions and make them harder to swallow. It’ll also wind up waking you up, because you’re not swallowing the thicker stuff as well in your sleep. It totally totally totally sucks, but you need liquids. I remember figuring out how to let gravity take liquids down my throat, so I had to do the mechanics of swallowing as little as possible. The whole swallowing problem with things going the wrong way is rotten, but you do eventually adjust.

    I PROMISE you it gets better. If your recovery matches mine, you are currently at the nadir. Hang in there!!!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 29, 2011 2:28 pm

      You had the swallowing-not-work thing too? I’m relieved. Not that you had it, because it sucks, but because you’re saying it will go away! I’m presently thickening liquids w/ this stuff my boyfriend’s mother had to use when she had a stroke and her swallow reflex was not working–I stir it into water and the stuff slides right down, it’s soft and lovely. Now I slug weird cornstarchy liquid all day long which thoroughly grosses the children out, which is great (not easy to gross out 8 and 15 year old boys, and god knows I try). It’s called THICK-IT and comes in a tub the size of my car.

      • Susan permalink
        May 29, 2011 4:20 pm

        Yeah, I think that may have been the worst part of the whole experience. It made me feel awfully panicky. I’m glad to hear that you’re managing with thicker substances. (Quite an achievement to have grossed out your boys!)

        I remember hearing that it takes something like nineteen different muscles to swallow; it’s not a simple thing to do. My best not-a-doctor guess is that the hurt makes you not use some crucial number of those nineteen, and that fouls things up. When my pain went away I could swallow again.

  19. Teki permalink
    May 29, 2011 8:49 pm

    Oh no. I’m so so sorry you’re going through this. Had I have known, I’d have posted sooner. I had my tonsils out when I was in my late 30’s, due to recurrent abscesses. Yay me. I, too, had no luck swallowing. The whole popsicle thing was a crock! I will say overly warm and overly cold helped me get down liquids, but it consistently hurt like a Mo-Fo. I couldn’t imagine this as a kid. Owie, owie, owie. I wish I had positives to say, but it was a good month before I could swallow without incredible pain. The upshot is I lost A LOT of weight. Between you and me? If I had to do it over again, I WOULDN”T. Hurt that bad and turns out? didn’t solve the problem for me. Got another abscess in the ol’ linguinal tonsils. Go me. Best of luck! It will get better I promise!

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 30, 2011 10:33 pm

      What in god’s name are linguinal tonsils? I shudder.

  20. May 29, 2011 10:50 pm

    i’ve got nothing. just wanted to say i feel for you and i hope your pain eases away soon. i wish i could offer something worthwhile …

  21. May 30, 2011 5:49 am

    Sorry I have no advice. I am reading for purely selfish reasons, having had several rounds of antibiotics this year, each time declaring myself to be free of whatever it is that lurks at the back of a throat only to discover I’m not, and trying to make sure I see a different doctor at the clinic, because I know sooner or later one of them is going to say get them out. It sounds very unpleasant. Still, I do agree with your doctor, an abcess near the brain is probably best removed. Wishing you a speedy recovery and an unsore, swallowing throat very soon.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 31, 2011 4:29 pm

      You know what? Having felt like shit since January when I had the first abscess, I think getting them out is going to make me feel reborn, once I get past this next week or so. I mean, constant low-grade infections wear you down. Antibiotics make you feel like crap. All spring I couldn’t figure out why I was so exhausted, why exercise was so hard, why I needed 15 hours of sleep, why I ached all the time–lo and behold, I had strep after strep after strep after strep. And it’s not good to have a big infection close to your brain. (Or your ears, eyes, sinuses, et cetera.) Get ’em out. I wish I’d done it years ago, obviously, but better now than years hence. I think.

  22. CWF permalink
    May 30, 2011 2:21 pm

    When it’s all said and done you will be one skinny bitch.

    • irretrievablybroken permalink*
      May 31, 2011 4:25 pm

      A hungry bitch, at least. Don’t let your kids cut through my yard, I’m liable to eat them.

  23. Bookshop_Becky permalink
    May 31, 2011 4:38 pm

    Having my tonsils out was genuinely one of the most painful experiences EVER. They made me eat a bag of crisps (chips) before I left the hospital, which: owwwww. When you start feeling better, the recovery process is quick from then on in, though!

  24. helena permalink
    June 4, 2011 12:03 am

    Darling, I am so sorry you are going through this. How does Thick-It work with bourbon, I wonder? It seems like if your friends are helping maintain your kids and the mechanics of human existence are agonizing for you then you would be forgiven for washing down your pain meds with some lovely Bullit, Blantons, or Woodford Reserve. A plus: good ol’ antiseptic alcohol would scour that nasty open wound right out!
    Conversely (as fucked-up, unhealthy living is my default mode): acupuncture. I have also suffered from recurrent strep/tonsil problems for years and would have probably had my tonsils out in childhood if my self-absorbed parents were paying attention, and yet recently (past 5 yrs) I have had no strep issues. Why? I believe it’s actually due to the consistent acupuncture I undergo to control my other immune issue, the cystitis (inflammation of the lining of the bladder). If you know of a good acupuncturist in your area I’d high thee hence…couldn’t hurt. In the meanwhile: Blanton’s.

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