I didn't have a tonsillectomy. My adult daughter did.
She had mono when she was 17, and ever since then, her health has tanked. She was always a kid to get strep throat, 3-4 times a year, but after the mono episode, she would get it repeatedly. The last two years, she had strep throat 6 times A YEAR.
About a year ago, the same daughter told me that her issues with sleep - always present in her life - had not improved, despite many different levels of work, and after discussion with her doctor, she was referred to both a sleep specialist and an ENT. It was felt that the sustained and ongoing lack of good, solid sleep was a contributor to her poor health and continual run down health. She was diagnosed with narcolepsy and potential sleep apnea, and was sent for both a sleep study and a subsequent nap study
and she wasn't allowed to participate in the second study, because the first overnight sleep study had confirmed severe sleep apnea
and it was recommended that she have her tonsils and adenoids taken out ASAP, and then when she'd recovered, the doctor would try the day time nap study to confirm the narcolepsy - which made total and complete sense to us, when we talked to the doctor about it and investigated further.
Every time my daughter saw a doctor, the very first comment would always be, "Has anyone ever told you that your tonsils are just ENORMOUS? We've never seen tonsils as big as the ones in your throat!" It was sort of like a party trick, if you might think that super gross and elephant size tonsils were fun to look at with your vodka tonic and cheese sticks. So we made plans to yank those tonsils and adenoids. Between the time of the sleep study and the surgery - about 6 weeks - she had strep throat twice. (And yes, between cases, she was recaptured and it was clean and we did the tooth brush thing and all of the other things. Trust - we know strep here in our house.)
The day came, we checked in, and she went for the surgery.
Now, what we had been told was that this surgery was really, really, really tough on an adult. We were told to expect a close to two week recovery, and that everything was going to be super painful.
This, I thought, was maybe a bit of overkill.
I proved myself to be an idiot.
It took every single bit of 10 days before I felt like my daughter was mostly back to us, and today has been 15 days - and the first day she went back to work.
If you've had a tonsillectomy suggested to you, I want to share some of the things that we found helpful.
1 - Make sure you get pain meds. We were sent home with liquid tylenol and liquid motrin - and that's it. On day three, my daughter was almost hysterical from the pain and I needed to call in for stronger pain meds. And that happened to be on the day that a foot of snow and ice came to town and I had to drive back to the hospital to get the prescription because a narcotic can't be called in, and we had probably one of the worst experiences every with filling a medication. The entire saga took five hours. FIVE HOURS. In retrospect, I wouldn't have left the hospital without the prescription, and I would have filled it, because if you are getting The World's Biggest Tonsils cut out of your throat (seriously, the surgeon said that they had grown together and were growing back into her throat) - plain ol' Tylenol and Motrin ain't gonna cut it.
2 - Make sure you take those pain meds. Religiously. Set an alarm. Use a white board, and write down when you give the Motrin and when you give the Tylenol or narcotic, because you WILL forget because you, the parent taking care of the patient - will be exhausted, much like the week after childbirth. Set your phone to go off every hour - more on that below - and put that grown up kid in your bed with you, because neither of you is sleeping for about a week.
3 - Alternate the pain meds. As above - they will work better is they are never allowed to wear off, at least for the first week.
4 - Keep the throat moist, Keeping the throat moist helps to facilitate healing. Whatever your child wants to drink - within reason, duh - do it - and prepare before the surgery by buying three or four times more Gatorade/Powerade/apple juice than you think you might need. I can promise your kid will drink all of it and beg for more.
5 - DO NOT SLEEP LONGER THAN AN HOUR AT A TIME FOR THE FIRST COUPLE OF DAYS. This part is so hard. You really want to sleep. Especially if you are taking narcotic pain meds, you will want to sleep and escape the pain. However. The more you sleep, the more your throat will dry out, and the worse the pain will be. Set an alarm and drink as often as possible. Every 15 minutes when you are awake, and every hour at night. We kept several thermal cups of ice water with straws next to us in bed and I would roll over, grab a cup and let her drink and then go back to sleep. Trust me when I say this - the first two nights we didn't do this and it was not a good idea.
6 - Pebble ice is your friend. You can buy a bag of pebble ice from Sonic - fill a cup with it and let your child suck on it. It's small enough that should some slide down the throat, it's cooling and won't choke her and it will keep the swelling down.
7 - Popsicles, slurpees, pudding, jello, cold soup - nothing hot - are all great foods to have. You can't eat anything spicy or with a hot temperature, and these foods can be kept cold and they will just slide down. My daughter is lactose intolerant, so ice cream and milkshakes didn't work for her, but slurpees did. She was incredibly hungry because she couldn't eat enough.
8 - Keep several bags of frozen cranberries or peas in your freezer and use them on the throat. Rotate them when they get warm. The size of the series or peas makes it easy to mold the bag around your throat.
9 - Your breath will be horrible. I mean, really, really, really vile, from the surgery until about day 9 (?) - think like sewer smell or rotten garbage - the worst breath you've ever dealt with. Your family will comment on it. Your entire car will smell. Just - don't be alarmed or offended. It has to do with healing. Yuck.
10 - You'll have really bad pain on day 4-6 and then when the scabs start to fall off, around day 8 or 9. By the time the scabs were falling off - a truly gross thought - my daughter was off of the narcotic pain meds, because she needed to be able to drive in order to go back to work. Just know that you will feel terrible, horrible, the worst you've ever felt - then actually pretty much not too bad - and then just exactly like you've had a relapse. Healing is a slow process.
One more thing that no one told us about, but apparently doesn't happen that often - when my daughter was coming out from anesthesia, she apparently started to clench her mouth shut, and the staff was alarmed that she was closing off her airway - her nose was swollen from the adenoid removal (hers were very tiny and they could only find one, despite extensive roto-rooting) and so they had to manually force her mouth open to allow her to breathe. While she was clenching, her tongue got in the way and she bit it, and the next several days were compounded with a swollen tongue and tenderness.
Now, doesn't this sound like a fun way to spend a couple of weeks? Lucky me, my husband is going to have the same surgery this spring!