Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tonsillectomy Post-Op Updates

Two teeny, tiny gripes leftover from yesterday:
1. facebook, google and everything keep changing so fast that I can't keep up. my grandma doesn't even try to use the internet, and I'm afraid that I'm destined to follow in her footsteps. I no longer have any idea how to sign into things, alter settings, recover my password, etc. Sometimes a product is good enough. stop changing it!
2. My own self-consciousness. It was scary to write that stuff yesterday, especially when I looked online and saw a lot of views (compared to the rest of the time). But I'm happier being myself and I feel like I'm a reasonable human being and I have a right to be heard just like all the other people out there (and a lot of them aren't even reasonable at all). So despite my panic attacks, I will keep the post on there. Please don't burn my house down.

Anyway, I think it's time...for another graphic picture of my tonsillectomy aftermath!!
kudos to Brandon for taking this picture with a cell phone camera. I like how my normal-sized uvula reflects the flashlight I'm holding to make this moment possible. Oh--my poor tonsil holes are real red around the edges! You can see the scabs inside. there's a dark part inside the one to the right--I am going to assume that's normal. Also, you can see how the taste buds closer to my front teeth are inflamed. Just so you know, it still hurts to open my mouth like this, so never say that I don't suffer for my art. 

So today is DAY 7 post-op. I should note that I've been counting the day of surgery as Day 1, primarily so I would feel like I was getting through it faster. I've decided that the very, very worst part about getting your tonsils out is the information available online about getting your tonsils out. For every story about an easy, standard tonsillectomy that takes the suggested 10-14 days to completely heal, there are approximately ten million horror stories about people who CAN NEVER BE HAPPY AGAIN! I would literally quake in terror at stories of people vomiting up blood clots and pain more intense than childbirth and severed nerves and loss of taste and tongue numbness and all manner of mayhem and terror. But I think my experience is probably more typical, and even the sites that have information about the typical experience don't go into much detail, so I will!

(I already covered days 1 and 2, so we'll start in at Day 3.)

Day 3: I hope I mentioned that I'm taking antibiotics every day. I'm taking pink goop amoxycillin as a preventative measure to stave off infection (is that redundant?). I remember taking it as a kid and loving it. I still do. Which is good, because it's about the only thing I can actually eat. I am sooo hungry. But the crappy thing is that I haven't lost any weight, and in fact, have put on a pound. The other thing is that I have tummy troubles as a result of my Percosets. While I could talk for the first little while after the surgery, by now it is really painful, and I communicate a lot by writing on notepads. I also found this site called that has a demo for it's natural speech text-to-voice application, and so when I talk on the phone, I use that. It has a word limit of like 20 words at a time, though, which is rough, and then I'm perpetually behind on the conversation. My parents will ask me a question and I'm still in the middle of answering the one five minutes ago. The pain isn't too bad. About a 4 out of ten when the pain killers aren't in force and a zero out of ten otherwise. Today's horrible life or death ordeal was that my mouth tasted like yeast inside! It was gross. It didn't help that I hadn't brushed my teeth since the surgery because I was afraid my vibrating toothbrush might slip and rip open my stitches and then I would painfully bleed to death on the bathroom floor.  Everything I ate tasted gross like my mouth and I was even more upset when Brandon suggested I might have thrush, which I had only heard of as an STD before. It turns out that thrush is not a classic STD but can result from many different things, including infection. Your throat will be coated in white stuff if you have thrush and it's supposed to be pretty painful. That's when I started hitting my acidophilus tablets religiously. I also gargled with salt water (okay, I was too lazy to make salt water, but I gargled with water and that's at least half the battle).  I gargle now each time I brush my teeth, and I think that and acidophilus and drinking a TON of water have helped. The taste was mostly gone by the end of the day and by now (day 7), is completely gone.  

Day 4: I was so hungry today and I actually felt like I could eat! I ate the leftover chicken biryani (it was very mild) and it felt so good to have real food in the old system! The pain was a little worse today than yesterday by the end of the day, but by far the most alarming thing was waking up after a long day's nap with a horrible feeling of a lump in my throat. After much online research, I determined that I either had an inoperable, huge, fatal, but very slow-moving embolism in my carotid artery, or I was having some GERD. I don't know what that stands for but it's basically acid reflux that manifests itself as a lump in the throat. I read a couple of other people that had that same feeling, but I don't know if they just felt that way about their swollen uvulas or if they had the same thing I did. Before finally settling on GERD I totally thought I was going to die. It felt like I was slowly choking or suffocating. I felt like I would have it for the rest of my life (thanks to the yahoo answers people whose lives have allegedly been destroyed by this surgery). I finally remembered the admonition to drink a ton of fluids and I did. And I started to burp. And the more I drank, the more I burped. I think it's gross to burp, especially out loud, and I try never to do it when other people are around. Brandon's dealt with grosser, though, and the relief was so immediate that I probably would have done it in front of the Queen. The lesson we should all be getting from this is there is no such thing as drinking too much liquid after a tonsillectomy.

Day 5: I ate almost nothing today. The pain racheted up significantly from Day 4, which seems consistent with what I've been reading. It is supposed to peak between days 5-7, though some people say Day 4 is the worst, and some people say Days 6-9 are the worst. I am hoping it doesn't get much worse than this. I got in a fight with Brandon and wanted to make him feel sorry so I made him dinner and did the dishes while he was taking a nap, even though I was sick. We worked it out, with both sides expressing their feelings and wishes for future behavior. (this is hard to do when you can't talk that well). I'm using my computer voice off and on today. Sometimes my real voice is okay, but it's high and whiny. I napped for basically the whole day before the dinner and dishes thing, and my housekeeping venture was probably a mistake. I find that I keep wanting to do things, and most of my body feels ready, but physically I really do still need to wait. The pain this evening is the worst so far and I just want to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. It's about a 6 out of 10. I've gotten addicted to playing this stupid phone app when I'm waiting for my pain medicine to kick in. It seems to help me get through it, but I want to delete it as soon as I'm better. Today's strange new symptom was a really dry throat and mouth. I ran out of gatorade, but drank more than a gallon of water, and it didn't help at all. Brandon was kind enough to get me a huge crate of gatorades and that made a lot of difference because it helped shore up my electrolytes. The Low calorie gatorade is helpful for right now because it has the electrolyte benefits, but few enough calories that I can drink a ton of it every day. It helps keep my throat lubricated and that really eases the pain. Also, with the huge amounts of tylenol I've been taking, I feel better about the state of my liver. The big problem tonight is that I am almost out of my Percosets. (my computer voice calls them pur-COSS-ettes). If this is just the beginning of the worst pain, I need more pills. Hopefully I can contact my doctor tomorrow. Until then, we're rationing the Percosets. (Even as I type this, I say pur-COSS-ettes in my head.) Also, I've started swallowing my pills whole. It is so much better than crushing them and choking them down with apple sauce or something. 

Day 6: Ouch. Today the pain is in the 6-8 out of 10 range, but the main problem is that there's not much of a respite. I'm really starting to feel the fact that I haven't eaten enough food in almost a week. I wonder if my thyroid is shutting down because I'm freezing cold all the time. I ended up taking three showers today, and just sat on the shower floor letting the warm water run over my body. First thing this morning I called my doctor's office. I asked the secretary to please relay the message that I need more medication. I'm afraid my doctor will think I'm a drug addict looking for a score. The secretary takes my message and casually slips in, "Oh yeah, she's not in the office today. I'll leave a message for her, but hopefully she'll be able to fill it tomorrow." I am crushed. I start taking one percoset at medicine-time instead of two, and it's really a lot less helpful. It seems to wear off faster, too, and I find myself furiously playing the bubble game for an hour and a half at a time until I get a little relief. I finally take a nap and when I wake up, I have a message from my doctor's secretary. My doctor has called in a prescription for Vicodin. I am saved!! It does not help as much as the Percoset, but I'm so relieved that I don't have to go it alone!
This is a PAINFUL recovery. BUT--even though I'm not done yet, I still think that the surgery will prove to be worth hit. It is horrible being debilitated by severe sore throats at least once a month during the winter/spring. Every bug that was going around seemed to latch onto my tonsils and go to town. I'm feeling really sorry for myself, and I keep reading that tonsillectomies are the most painful recovery of any surgery, so finally I google, "most painful surgeries." I find a message board where people are comparing battle scars--having kids without an epidural, shoulder surgery, chemotherapy--and I realize that even if I have a couple of bad pain days, it is nothing compared to what a lot of people are going through and I need to man up. Some people have claimed that their tonsil pain on recovery is worse than childbirth. I've never had a child, but for me, I don't think that's true--though it's hard to compare pain in different parts of your body. This night is really bad. I fell sort of behind in my medication today, what with my rationing, and so the pain got a real foothold. Around 2am, I burst into Brandon's room (we've been sleeping in separate rooms since I'm sick and he can't take noise and I move around a lot and snore and stuff) and pitifully whined, "it hurts sooo much!!!" Lovingly, he spread his arms and said, "come here." I crawled next to him in bed. Or at least part way. Because he was spread-eagled in the bed, and he did not move his body at all. So I was scrunched half-on and half-off the bed. I snuggled close to him and started to talk about the pain but every time I did, he'd gently and lovingly say, "shh..." in a comforting way. It was super aggravating and I left after about a minute. Which I think was his goal, though he acted surprised that I was leaving already. Oh, a side note--my usual level of crying is really high. I probably cry at least once a day. It's not that I'm a particularly sad person--I just think that that's my emotional balance. But since my surgery I think I've only cried once, but not because of the pain. I think it would hurt too much to cry, but I could be wrong. That seems like emotional growth, but I can tell that my sinuses miss their daily cleansing. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it! We also watched the super-awesome video of that race-car driver in the Daytona 500 crash into the jet-engine dryer. Look it up. It's awesome--especially since no one got seriously injured.

Day 7 : Today!! This is a really long blog entry! But I want people who are contemplating a tonsillectomy to have a lot of information from someone who's been through it as an adult, so they know that it's painful but should be beyond what they can handle. Every person is different and every person's pain tolerance is different. Today the pain was a little better. The broad white patches in my throat have narrowed down to slivers where my tonsils were. These are the scabs and they should be breaking off and being swallowed (gross!) over the next couple of days. The period of starting to lose and losing the scabs is supposed to be the most painful, and so I'm happy to say that the pain overall was better today. My voice sounds a lot better, though I still feel like I sound like one of those kids that was raised by wolves in the jungle and is learning to speak for the first time as a teenager.  There are still periods of a lot of pain. Generally it's about a 3-4 when my medication is mostly going full steam, but it's still a 6-7 when the medication is wearing off/wearing on again. A lot of the pain (for the past couple days, too) is referred to my ears so it feels like I have an ear infection or something. It is uncomfortable to talk, and swallowing feels a little worse compared to days 3-4, but I'm following my favorite rule: hydrate! hydrate! hydrate! which as always, makes things better. There has never been a moment today where I haven't had a cup of water or a bottle of gatorade with me. I always sleep with a bottle of each by my bedside for the middle of the night. Today I swallowed my huge multivitamin whole! That sucker is an inch long! With my uvula now normal-sized, I figure it's safe to try. I also brushed my teeth more thoroughly than I had since last Wednesday morning (I'm totally lying--I did not brush my teeth before going into surgery--is that rude, since they were working on my mouth?). Right now I'm in a pain transition phase (which is my delightful euphemism for when the last pill wore off and the next one still hasn't brought me up to speed yet) so I'm not that happy, but I'm still dealing with it like a champion! Also I ate today. A lot! I had oatmeal for breakfast, mac and cheese for lunch (that didn't work out all that well--it seems like it would be a good recovery food, but I cannot endorse it because something about it just doesn't feel right...) and...went out to dinner! I was craving a pizza so bad so we went to the little pizzeria and got a mushroom-heavy pizza (they are squishy and delishy!--how cute was that? and how apparent that the medicine is starting to kick in!) AND a salad WITH CROUTONS!! And it all went down great! I do wonder if I'll have another lump-in-the-throat situation tomorrow.  I took some time to make myself feel clean and pretty again. I washed my hair (I only took two showers today!) and plucked my eyebrows, and did a mud mask. It felt really good. So hopefully the pain will continue to improve. I am ready to get on with my life! Oh, also, the new symptom for today is that my taste buds feel really tender, and the front of my tongue is sore. I've heard other people online say this is from the mouth holder opener thing, but it seems weird that after 7 days it would only finally start to feel an impact now. 

Though I am in the "throes of agony" part of tonsillectomy recovery, I hope that my experience will provide some realistic expectations for the surgery and recovery. On all the horror-story blogs, I read comments by people who need a tonsillectomy but are thinking about backing out based on what they've read there. Just remember that this is a surgery that has been done probably tens of millions of times--this isn't a procedure that has never been done before that they're going to name after you--if you survive. This is a minor surgery, and though there's a risk of complications, the odds are very much in your favor to have a normal experience. 

Man, the life or death experience for today just happened--this page just froze. I was so sad! I thought I would lose this huge opus. 


Anne said...

Seriously?! I don't know why the body of my text keeps going in a caption! Can someone help me? I thought I fixed it but apparently not. Refer back to gripe number one in today's post!

Dan said...

I shuddered with sympathetic fear when I saw you were getting your tonsils out! Dan had a pretty rough time with his. Nothing abnormal, just the average miserable experience :) One of the worst things for him was the liquid percoset, which sounds nice, but it made him throw up pretty much every time he took it. He felt pretty good the first few days, then the pain started getting worse and worse. He had two weeks off work, and by then end I was wondering how he could possibly go back when things were still so bad. Then the weekend before he went back, all of a sudden, it was much better and he didn't have any problems after that. Hopefully it will get significantly better for you soon! The surgery he had in November for his deviated septum was one hundred times easier. On the bright side, however, he definitely feels it was worth it now :)