Tonsillectomy: A foodie’s worst nightmare

** DISCLAIMER**  The following post is merely a personal account of my trials & tribulations over the past week following adult tonsillectomy. It should not by any means be taken as medical advice. I do however hope that the shared experience will provide some comfort to those of you recovering from tonsillectomy yourselves and wondering ‘why me?’. If you found this post through obsessive google-ing of ‘tonsillectomy’ (as I did myself) in the lead-up to surgery or during recovery, this one is for you….

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It’s been just over a week since I had my tonsils removed, hence the reason why this foodblog has been rather neglected of late. With the simple act of swallowing becoming a Herculean feat in the initial days following surgery, it’s not surprising that I haven’t had any happy thoughts about food to share.  The bright-side now that its all over? – NO MORE TONSIL STONES!!! And gone (hopefully forever) is the daily routine of having to dig my tonsil crypts free of trapped food. I’ve also lost almost 3 kgs along the way. Woop Woop!

Here are my memoirs from a quite horrendous post-op week…

Surgery Day:  The surgery day itself is all a bit hazy now… The last thing I really remember before going under (apart from the seven hour NHS wait that is) was some small talk with the Anaesthetic Consultant and me jokingly reminding him “you better wake me up after”. Next thing I knew, I was already in the recovery room. The post-op photo below (taken by covertly by Jo) says it all. I was clearly not a happy bunny…

Get this ol’ school dressing gown off-a meee…

Looking through my iPhone text messages the next day, i did find this amusing text message (in verbatim) which I only now realised I had sent Jo:

27 May 2011, 16:40: “I an up. Verrjy dizy tho”.

The Aftermath

Days 1-2: With some residual anaesthesia and morphine still running through my veins,the pain was actually pretty bearable. There wasn’t really a constant background pain per say, but it did hurt like mad when I tried to swallow anything, even saliva. What didn’t help was the inflammation around the salivary glands which meant they were constantly in overdrive. I must have produced a mouthful of saliva every 30 seconds and found myself drooling uncontrollably like a dog and needing to spit excessively. Ugh.

Days 3-5: There now was a constant pain at the back of the throat, which crescendoed and peaked on day 5. What made things worst was that the pain wasn’t just confined to the tonsil area (the ears, temples and back of the eyes all gatecrashed the party as well). This was probably the lowest point for me post-op and on many a sleepless night I constantly found myself questioning why I had even elected for the surgery in the first place.

Days 5-7: The sutures and foul-smelling white surgery scabs from the cauterisation process now began to fall off which resulted in some minor bleeding about 2-3 times a day. Though the constant pain from the earlier days started to ease, there was now a searing/burning sensation of new exposed skin whenever I took a sip of water or ate anything.

Day 8-9: As I sit here writing this, I’m finally beginning to feel that the worst is over and starting to eat proper food again. Yes, there is still the occasional minor bleeding as the last of the surgery scabs fall off, but the pain is starting to ease up so I can finally start to ween myself off the 3 different painkillers I’m on.

Some dos and donts (from personal experience and trial/error)

DO:

… drink as much water as possible. As painful as it is to swallow, the pain of a dry/dehydrated throat is even worst.

… ice-water, ice-cream, iced-everything to numb the pain.

… strawberry jello and muller rice pots!!

… try to force down some mildly abrasive food (such as toast) about once or twice a day. I found it helped to clean the surgery wound and suck up all that excess saliva that was clinging onto the throat.

… gargle and rinse with Difflam. I found it helped me immensely (especially when the pain got unbearable and I had already maxed out on painkillers).

… time the taking of painkillers you are prescribed carefully, especially on Days 3-7 when the pain is at its worst.

DONT:

… eat or drink anything even mildly acidic (not even orange juice).

… voluntarily cough/sneeze violently or gargle excessively. I found it often triggered a bleeding episode on a couple of occasions.

… eat or drink dairy products excessively. For instance, I found milk and cereal a little nauseating as it clung to the throat like glue for hours on end.

… sleep facing up unless you have to. I found sleeping on my side was best to avoid being awakened to the feeling of being choked by my own saliva and phlegm.

I don’t wish for anyone to have to go through what I did unless they have to. But at the same time, no human being should have to dig their throats free of tonsil stones everyday or suffer from tonsillitis every other month either. If you are about to have a tonsillectomy, or recovering from it, I wish you all the very best! If it’s any consolation, food really does taste better without those pesky flaps of redundant flesh in the way.

G.

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