Welcome to the Let’s Be Real series! Over the last ten years, I’ve noticed a shift in bloggers and writers out there. Everything now is about aesthetics and putting your best face on. While I’m not saying we should be airing our dirty laundry outside, I do miss reading about people and their authenticity. That’s what drew me to reading blogs to begin with. I’m keeping it real with you because this is who I am.
Let’s be real.
For our first volume, I’m going to share my tonsillectomy experience with you.
I needed my tonsils removed because I was constantly getting sick with bronchitis/laryngitis/sinusitis and every year, it would just get worse. In 2019, I was sick every other month. I tried everything including oils and all that. Nothing was touching my constant rounds of sickness. I went to the ENT and he deemed that I needed my tonsils removed. I originally had my surgery scheduled for March, but due to the pandemic, I was rescheduled to mid-May. It’s been a little over a month since my surgery, and I am feeling great!
Before I go on, I just have to say that everyone’s experience is different. My husband’s experience was much different than mine in that he did not react well to pain medicine. It made him super hot and agitated. So, just take my experience for what it’s worth. I’ll try to highlight the universal tips that helped both me and my husband during recovery.
The Pre-OP Experience
Because we were still under quarantine, my husband was not allowed to go back in the pre-op area. He actually had to wait in the car the entire time. I was fine being by myself, but it was really weird being alone.
Once it was my turn, the pre-op nurse walked me to the operating room where they helped me up to the operating table. They warned me that it would feel like everyone was coming at me since I was laying down. It was a little overwhelming, but as soon as the anesthesia kicked in (probably within two minutes of me laying there), I was out cold.
The Post-Op Experience
Not gonna lie, being woken up from surgery was extremely jarring. It felt as though an earthquake were waking me up. I don’t know if that’s an exaggeration because of the medicine or if the nurses were legit shaking the bed to wake me. Nonetheless, it was extremely jarring.
I also started coughing due to the irritation from the intubation. That was the absolute worst feeling. While my mouth was definitely numb, my throat was not. It felt extremely dry and irritated. The nurse offered me some water, which I gladly took. I took small sips trying to figure out how to properly swallow. The nurse noticed I was having a hard time and offered me a popsicle, which was much easier to manage. With the popsicle, I’d take a bite and let it just melt and slide down the back of my throat.
I think I was in post-op for about an hour before going home. The ride home was fairly uneventful. Since the anesthesia was beginning to wear out, I started feeling woozy, so I just closed my eyes during the ride home.
Tip: Pack a trash bag or bring a bucket with you in the event you get sick during the car ride home!
Recovery At Home
Tonsillectomy recovery is no joke, especially for adults. There are three main things you need for recovery at home.
- A support person – someone to get you water, ice, medicine, etc. anytime you need it.
- Water – to keep your mouth from drying out.
- Sleep – because rest is best.
Tip: Rest, rest, rest! Don’t make me sing the Daniel Tiger “Rest is Best” song.
Recovery Deets – The Good, Bad & Ugly
The weirdest sensation is being able to feel your mouth again post-surgery. The entire top of my mouth felt so swollen. It also felt as though it would burst any time I swallowed something. And speaking of swallowing, I needed to re-teach myself how to swallow without choking.
Fun fact: During recovery, I was not allowed to use a straw.
Here are some other things I experienced between Days 1-5:
- Neck and Ear Pain – This started around Day 3 for me.
- Feverish – Around Day 2-3, I felt like I had the flu on and off.
- Hot flashes – This was super weird and very inconsistent.
On Day 5, I started really feeling weak and almost flu-like. I decided to eat bread because I felt as though my lack of energy was from having no carbs for five days. This did WONDERS. Granted, it took me forever because I literally ate teeny tiny bites. But it was definitely manageable, although it did hurt swallowing.
I woke up around 2 AM on Day 6 in excruciating pain. My throat and ears felt like they were on fire. My husband administered meds and I was able to sleep well after that, but when I woke up later that morning around 7 AM, I still felt awful. I wrapped my neck with an ice pack which seemed to make the pain subside.
I woke up on Day 8 to almost no pain, which was odd. My husband (who had a tonsillectomy 3 years ago) was absolutely shocked because he was in pain for weeks. I will admit here that this is likely the exception, not the rule! However, I was still unable to talk. I could barely whisper.
THE ABSOLUTE WORST PART … Besides the pain, the absolute hands-down worst part about recovery is the AWFUL breath post-recovery. No amount of gentle oral care will touch the terrible, awful, no good, bad breath that occurs during recovery. It’s absolutely heinous. We’ll get into that later.
Could you talk at all?
Nope. I couldn’t talk for about 2 weeks. And do you know how hard it is for me to be quiet?! To communicate, I had a bell and a whiteboard. My poor kids didn’t understand what was going on and they can’t read either, so when I’d try to whisper, they’d say, “HUH!? Mama, I can’t understand you!” My poor dears.
By week 3, I began to gain the ability to speak without everything hurting. I still sounded super garbled like I had cotton in my mouth. It wasn’t until the end of that week and the beginning of week 4 that I began to speak normally again.
What about Oral Care?
I’m not gonna lie. I didn’t brush my teeth for the first two days after surgery because I could not physically open my mouth wide enough to stick a toothbrush in there. However, when I woke up on Day 3, I couldn’t stand it anymore. So, I put a tiny bit of toothpaste on my toothbrush and very carefully brushed with a ton of water. I could barely open my mouth wide enough to get the toothbrush in there, but I did it anyway because I was desperate! I had a hard time spitting so I made sure to rinse with a lot of water. It wasn’t even a real rinse– I was basically dribbling everything out of my mouth. You really want to avoid being harsh or aggressive because you don’t want to cause your scabs to bleed.
And speaking of the scabs, the aftertaste was AWFUL. I gagged every time I accidentally tasted them.
**Again, this is just my experience– consult your physician! Mine said “light oral care is acceptable.”**
For the first four days, I had nothing but water, popsicles, and smoothies. Someone had told me about Daily Harvest (not sponsored), a company that makes these super healthy smoothies, so I decided to give it a whirl. It is pretty pricy (A little less than $6 a smoothie), but considering the convenience factor, we thought it’d be fine to get for me. I decided to get a variety of different flavors.
Because I couldn’t have dairy, my husband made my smoothies with coconut water. Some flavors like the Strawberry and Peach were actually yummy with the coconut water. Others like Matcha Pineapple, not so much– it’s better with milk. And there were some flavors that I didn’t care for at all like the cherry and acai one, but that may honestly be because my tastebuds were off during recovery.
Tip: Invest in smoothies and popsicles!
As I said earlier, on Day 5, I got so desperate for something to keep my fuller, so I ate a slice of bread with a little ghee. On Day 7, I ate a tiny slice of Marco’s Pizza because I was extremely hungry and desperate for food. I had to take tiny bites and chew really, really well. It definitely hurt going down, but I don’t regret it because it was delicious.
The hardest part about eating anything post-surgery is swallowing, so you have to be super careful about choosing what foods to eat. It probably wasn’t the wisest thing for me to eat pizza… but when you’re hangry, you’re haaaangry.
By Days 11 and 12, I was able to stomach a little more and had Chick Fil A mac and cheese and the chicken noodle soup. That stuff tasted even more heavenly than pre-surgery. Haha. By the end of the second week, I was pretty much back to eating normal foods again. I did eat very cautiously and tried not to overdo it.
The following two weeks, I continued to rest and eat carefully as not to hurt my throat or inadvertently open my scab wounds. At the end of Week 4, I followed up with my ENT who had to cut the scabs off because they hadn’t fallen off at that point. It was super uncomfortable and felt like you were getting a shot in your mouth. But the pain subsided really quickly after he cut them out.
It’s been almost six weeks since my tonsillectomy and I am feeling great and practically back to normal. I am much more conscious about drinking water because my throat tends to dry up quicker than it used to.
Again, this was just my experience. If you are having a tonsillectomy, be sure to learn about other people’s experiences. My husband’s experience was the complete opposite of mine where he was just in dire pain for three weeks straight. And of course, always consult your physician for any medical questions you have.
Thanks for stopping by! Let me know if you have any questions about my tonsillectomy experience. I’m happy to answer. Just leave a comment here or DM me on Instagram @kaycee__simpson (two underscores).