As of today, it’s been one week since my 12 year old had her tonsillectomy. I hope that sharing her experience will help other parents who have a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy planned. Of course, this isn’t medical advice, instead a mother’s retelling of what my daughter has been through before, during and after this surgery.
One thing I’ve learned is that although a tonsillectomy is a very quick procedure (hers took about 15 minutes), there can be a long recover period. Recovery depends on how your child tolerates pain, the age of your child and the amount of swelling that occurs after the procedure among other things. Since my daughter is 12, she is closer to a teenager, who can often have a longer and more painful recover period.
Choosing A Doctor
We decided on a doctor who only works with pediatric patients. The ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) office has a number of doctors and nurses on staff and was recommended by two of our daughter’s doctors. We felt comfortable with the doctor from the first visit. He took time to answer all of our questions and those of my daughter’s. Her other medical issues were taken seriously and all notes from other specialists were contacted either via phone or medical notes. We met with the nurse who scheduled the procedure and she took the time to go over the details again. We were able to ask questions by phone up to the day of the procedure and never felt like we were bothering anyone.
Preparing for the Tonsillectomy
We received information from the ENT office for my daughter and for me to read and their website which has special sections for children and parents. Since my daughter would be staying overnight at the hospital, because of her medical problems, we also had use of the hospital website. Of course, I talked to my daughter about what was coming up and let her talk about her fears and concerns.
The Day of the Procedure
Because of my daughter’s age, she was one of the last ones to have her procedure done. Although she couldn’t eat any solids after midnight, she could have clear liquids up to 3 hours before the tonsillectomy. Thank goodness, she slept in that day as we were scheduled to be at the hospital at 1:15 PM. She was nervous, so we had movies, books and video games ready for her. She slept again during the ride to the hospital. Once we arrived, the staff took over and helped to calm her fears. We were able to stay with her all the way up to the Operating Room doors.
The hospital is child friendly and had a television in the pre-op room. All of the staff spoke nicely to my daughter and answered all of her questions. When she began to cry, the nurse was there in a flash to help her. She did not get an IV until after she was sleepy from an anesthetic she breathed in through a mask.
After the Tonsillectomy
The doctor spoke to us right after the tonsillectomy to let us know that everything went well. Then we waited to be called into the recovery room. Once there, we found our daughter talking, which surprised us, until we learned that she had been given morphine. She was in a panic though and was confused. One nurse was with her throughout the recovery period and explained what was happening to us. After about 10 minutes, she calmed down, but was very nauseous. She began to hyperventilate and the oxygen mask was put near her, not over her mouth. Soon, she vomited, which caused her to hurt a lot. More morphine was given.
The worst complaints within the first 4 t0 6 hours after the procedure were pain and nausea. She wasn’t able to explain where the pain was. A different type of pain medication was given and medication to help with the nausea. She was able to eat part of a popsicle. Later that night, she needed help to use the bathroom because she was dizzy and weak. She was also able to drink some milk with very softened graham crackers. She awoke many times during the night due to pain.
The Next Day
Her ability to speak worsened as the swelling in her mouth and throat grew. There was more pain in her throat as well. Because she wasn’t drinking or eating as much as she should, she spent the day at the hospital. She was miserable. Nothing made her happy. Her pain medication was changed again and she finally ate some ice cream and drank water and milk. We were able to get her prescriptions filled at the hospital and we were on our way home.
The Days After the Tonsillectomy
As the days went on, ear pain and neck pain began. Inside her mouth was swollen and she had a fever which ran from about 100 – 101. The doctor’s office was in touch with us and increased the amount of the pain medicine which included a fever reducer. We gave her medicine every four hours to prevent the pain from catching up on her. I used my cell phone alarm to remind me. We didn’t wake her for her medicine, but she did have a few nights that she woke up and needed it. We kept a list of the time and dose of medication, the time that she used the bathroom and any new symptoms she had.
Another surprising thing that has been occurring is that my daughter has been much more emotional, even crying. We were told that this is common for older children and adults. And crying causes more pain. This makes it difficult for me as a mother. I try to comfort her, but there doesn’t seem to be much I can do to help her.
- A stuffy nose is another common complaint. Have lots of tissues ready and encourage your child to blow her nose.
- Expect bad breath! It’s awful, and even brushing teeth won’t help. It is necessary to have your child brush their teeth though.
- Ear pain
- Weakness and lack of energy
- Sleepiness – can be due to pain medications
- Neck and shoulder pain
What We Hope for the Future
During the tonsillectomy, the doctor also did a sinus culture. We’re waiting on those results to see another reason, besides allergies that she is constantly congested. After she is fully recovered from this procedure, my daughter will undergo another sleep study and perhaps a nap study to determine if the diagnosis of narcolepsy is correct, if another sleep disorder will be diagnosed or if the removal of the large tonsils will improve her sleeping.
Has your child or have you as an adult had a tonsillectomy? What was your experience?