Getting in a Knife Fight with a Surgeon, But I Didn’t Bring a Knife (having my tonsils out)

Goals of this Post

This post is intended to help others who are considering, or are currently in the midst of, a tonsillectomy. I was about a month away from being 20 when I had mine, and was generally healthy with a history of chronic strep throat. At the time of my surgery I was getting strep about four times a year, most likely thanks to the community bathrooms in my dorm. Take that into consideration when comparing your experiences to mine, since age and health are both a factor in recovery. I hope you find something to help you!

My Experience

The surgery itself was easy-peasy. It took maybe twenty-five minutes tops, and the most painful thing was getting the IV in. After the surgery, I felt great because of the anesthesia still pulsing through my veins. I walked to the car confidently. Then we got home. Then I took my first dose of pain meds: liquid hydrocodone. Then things got worse. I vomited, twice. The medicine they gave me tasted like someone was angry at me and had concocted the most nasuea inducing thing they could think of. The anesthesia was starting to wear off, and my whole body was feeling wrong because of it: blurred eyesight, heavy limbs, and of course, more nausea. The throat pain wasn’t especially bad because of the cocktail of narcotics in me, but I generally felt awful. That’s essentially how the first several days went for me.

I was constantly stoned. Some people love the drug I was on; they do it for fun. For me, it was not fun. Narcotics make me itchy, everywhere, as if my skin is crawling. From what I understand this is because opiods release histamines, which can cause allergic-style reactions. Additionally, the narcotic gave me hallucination-style dreams, which caused me to confuse reality with my dream world, wherein all my friends were stylishly dressed interior designers. So, for those first few days I was in and out of consciousness with no real marker of time except my regular medicine doses and encouragements to eat. I was very lucky to have people caring for my 24/7. Without them, those days would not have gone as smoothly as they did. In fact, without them I’m fairly sure I would be in the hospital.

Thankfully, becuase of the pain meds, my pain level was low enough that I was able to eat and drink quite a bit. That helped immensely, as it gave my body fuel to heal. However, the narcotics turned out to be more harm than they were help around day five. The fun dreams about my friends became terrifying nightmares, and I woke up more than once legitmately afraid and not knowing what was real. I made the decision that I would rather have pain than the nasuea, itching, and hallucinations from the narcotic, so I switched to liquid acetominophen. It also tasted like sadness and regret.

That switch was very smart for me, personally. Though my pain did signifigantly increase to the point of being strong enough to wake me up an hour before each new dose of pain medicine, the narcotic’s side effects went away. With them gone I felt much more like myself and was more driven to eat, drink, and interact with my caretakers. Even though I was in more pain, I felt better. After a couple of days I swapped to a pill form of the same medicine so that I didn’t have to taste that nasty stuff anymore.

At the one week mark I was able to speak some, with pain, and eat consistently. After the one week mark I began healing exponentially faster. The turning point for me was gorging myself on Buffalo Wild Wings fried pickles around day 10. For some reason I smelled them and found myself wanting to eat an entire basket. So I did. Though it hurt quite a bit and I wasn’t able to talk at that dinner because of the pain, I woke up the next morning feeling like a new woman. This was probably because the roughness of the fried pickles took so much of my scabs off. Or maybe bodies just need pickles to heal. I’m no professional.

As I write this it has been exactly two weeks since my surgery. I still have some pain when speaking, swallowing, and yawning, but it is very minimal. I can eat essentially whatever I want, though spices still burn and straws feel weird when they create a vacuum in my mouth. Today all of my movement restrictions have been limited, so I’m working on regaining the ten pounds I lost during this ordeal via protein and athletic activity. My goal is to put the weight back on in muscle.

Tl;dr “My Experience”

Surgery day is easy, but recovery is hard. All the medicines taste bad enough to make you puke, and the narcotics really messed me up, so I stopped them as soon as I could and chose increased pain over foggy brain. Eating lots made me get better faster, but you can’t rush your body no matter how hard you try, and I still have some pain.

How to Recover Faster and Healthier

Putt Stuff in Your Butt

When the anesthesia and then the narcotics made me nasueous I had to figure something out quickly. Stomach acid doesn’t feel so hot on open wounds in your throat, and your body really needs food; puking it all up hinders your healing. The solution, for anyone else with this problem? Put stuff up your butt. Specifically, get some anti-nasuea suppositories. You can’t puke them up, and they work quickly. Just take a deep breath and realize that whoever is taking care of you is experiencing a lot worse with your breath and crankiness, so let them help you out with these things. It’ll make a good story later.

Remember Pain is Temporary

Did you know that the human brain cannot recall past pain? We can perfectly recreate smells and sounds that we’ve encountered, but we simply cannot remember how pain feels. That’s an evolutionary trick that allows women to think they want more than one child(birth). For you, it should be a mantra. There will be times when the pain is debilitating, like the first time you yawn. There will be times when your body feels like it’s revolting against you and you’re overwhelmed. To overcome those times I closed my eyes and counted my breaths, mentally repeating “I’m going to forget all of this.” It’s a little cheesy, but it worked, and I was able to take my medicine and eat on schedule.

Just Frickin’ Eat

A lot of people on the internet will tell you that it is ok to not want to eat the first few days. Your doctor will tell you to eat as much as you can as early as you can. LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR. Eating not only provides your body with the nutrients and fuel that it needs to heal you, it also prevents the scabs on your wounds from getting thick. Though eating will undoubtedly hurt, having thick scabs and doing nothing about them will give you worse long-term pain. So eat. All the time. Even though it hurts. I had mashed sweet potatoes the first few days and they were great. I moved on to steamed dumplings and fried rice as I felt better and puked less. Find what sounds apetizing to you and consume it.

Be Wary of Drug Side Effects

When I told my friends what drug I had been perscribed they were like “wooh how fun!” Oh boy, was it not fun. I was lucky to have people with me who knew that it was the narcotics that were making me itchy and crazy. Without them, I would have thought I was dying. I got off the narcotics as quickly as I could, and I paid the price for leaving them with more pain. Be aware that you could have similar reactions to anesthesia and pain medicine, and prepare for those reactions with medicines to counteract the effects (like anti-nasuea meds).

Pull a Bill Whithers (Lean on Your Friends)

While reading you may have noticed that I mention the people that took care of me several times. They were life savers, literally. Call in favors for this. Ask your friends to stay with you. They’ll help you remember to eat and drink, but also they’ll just help you feel not-abandoned. Recovering is hard. Some people experience depression-like symptoms due to a lack of sodium in their recovery diet. Messages or head pats from people that care about you do a lot to help you recover. Don’t undervaule them.

In Conclusion

Surgery is easy, but recovery is hard, especially if you aren’t willing to put yourself through pain now to avoid future pain.

Overall, I’m very glad I had the surgery. After the first week I would say all of the pain that I experienced during the day was less than the pain I would experience during the bad days of an episode of strep, which I have probably four times a year. Additionally, because of this surgery I will be at a much lower risk for strep, which will reduce the number of days of work and school I miss, the number of times I have to inundate my body with antibiotics, and the number of days I feel terrible throat pain in the future. To anyone in a situation similar to mine, I strongly suggest talking to your doctor about this procedure.