Tonsillectomy Post Op: If They Miraculously Grow Back, They Stay Forever

I know tonsils don’t grow back, but I swear, if they miraculously do grow back, they will never be removed again! 

My personal opinion about having a tonsillectomy as an adult:
Unless your tonsils totally hinder your daily life and majorly impact your health, I say, KEEP THEM!  Tonsillectomy as an adult is no fun!

My recovery has been anything but normal.  I have not experienced a single thing that I have read, watched, or that my ENT doctor even said was part of recovery.   Instead, I had a rare complication (inability to swallow) extending my recovery time from 1-2 weeks to 6-8 weeks.

Why I had a tonsillectomy

I had a “cyst” with recurring tonsil stones.  

My ENT doctor gave my tonsils a look and told me they had some scarring, due to tonsil stones and past infections.  I rarely have sore throats and my tonsil stones never bother me, as I never really notice them.

However, this time, I supposedly had the “mother” of all tonsil stones, that my doctor believes was causing a cyst to form next to my tonsils.   There was no recommendation to drain the cyst.  I was just told, that due to the cyst, it was “necessary” to remove them.  So, whatever, sign me up.

I was told by the ENT doctor that recovery is rough for adults (lots of pain), but generally, adults are feeling pretty good by the end of the first week.  Expect a diet of lots of ice-cream, popsicles, mash potatoes, and Tylenol.

Youtube videos and other blog articles from people sharing their adult tonsillectomies, pretty much said the same thing:  Pain and sore-throat.  So, I felt I was well prepared for the worst.  I was prepared for Pain. 

Surgery Day

I was so nervous!  I have never had general anesthesia before and I was absolutely terrified of what might happen.  So, while I was being prepped by the nurses, I really worked on breathing and acceptance.  Often times, when I am stuck having to do something I am terrified of doing, I imagine the situation is like being on a roller coaster.  That point of no return when you are clickity-clacking up the first initial incline of the roller-coaster track: You just have to accept this is where you are at and you can only move forward from here.

Before my surgery, I remember the nurse and general anesthesiology rolling me down the hallway to the surgery room.  They were talking about allergies.  The very last thing I remember, is backing through two blue doors and seeing a clock on the wall, thinking, the clock on the wall, looks just like the clock in the surgery room where I had my C-section for my kids.  Then, I was out.  I vaguely remember moving from one bed to another, but that could of just been a dream.

In what felt like minutes (reality, it was almost an hour), I woke up in recovery with a different nurse talking to me.  Who knows how long she was talking to me or what she was even saying.  Another hour later, I was sent home, tonsil free.

ER Visits

I couldn’t swallow anything, not even my own spit.  

As lady-like as I tried to be, I had to adopt a spit cup.  So gross!  I was also getting dehydrated, because I couldn’t swallow anything.   I was forced to go to the ER, which terrified me, because of the global pandemic.  But, I had to go.  They gave me a couple bags of fluid and a steroid shot, then sent me on my way home.  It helped a little bit, but wore off and I had to go back the next day, where they did a CT scan and diagnosed me with epiglottitis, inflammation of the epiglottis, in which is rare for adults.

The epiglottis is a flap of cartilage that covers the windpipe when you eat.  When, it’s swollen, there is a risk of not being able to breathe (life threatening) or cause aspiration that could lead to pneumonia.  So, they admitted me, but I went home the next day, because my ENT doctor did not agree with their diagnosis.

My Throat Muscles Were “Frogged”

Now, I am not from around here parts, so I’ve never heard of the term, “frogged” before, but that is how my ENT kept explaining it to me.

According to my ENT doctor, and this is my best understanding of it, my throat muscles were “frogged,” meaning not exactly paralyzed, but not fully awake either.  Supposedly, my tonsils were “nasty bad” and it took them longer than usual to get them out.  It also required a little extra cauterizing (burning) to stop the bleeding.  So, my understanding of all that, is that my throat muscles are temporarily shocked due to too much trauma, but it’s not forever, even though it feels like forever.

No Pain, Just Can’t Swallow

All this time, I have not experienced any pain- none.  Not only are my muscles “shocked,” but so are the nerves.  It has taken over a month, to gain some feeling back in my throat.

The only normal experience I have had so far in recovery, is having white gross looking scabs in my throat, swollen uvula (punching bag that hangs down from the middle of your throat), sore tongue from the clamping during surgery, and extra thick phlegm due to inflammation.

The not so normal experiences include, a numb throat, numb tongue, a tongue that had limited range of motion, and inability to swallow food or liquids.

According to my ENT doctor, I have to practice strengthening my throat muscles.  Not only are some of them still “asleep,” but they had to cut away some of the muscle with the tonsils, so those particular muscles need to compensate for the muscle taken away.  I also have to learn how to swallow again.

This is Week 6

Today is Week 6, if my calculations are correct.  At this point, it feels like forever.
I lost nearly 20 lbs, since my tonsillectomy, with my lowest weight being 112 lbs.  I have a collar bone that I haven’t seen since high-school, no more double chin, and my pants are as loose fitting as “MC Hammer” pants.  Can’t touch this!

I am burning more calories than I am taking in, so with 2 high-calorie shakes a day, my weight is hovering around 116 lbs.  I still can’t eat any solids; however, I am not limited on liquids anymore.

Improvements are slow and gradual, with the first successful milestone being able to swallow my own spit, next, being able to swallow thin liquids (popsicles, water, and almond milk), getting rid of the spit cup, graduating to thicker liquids (milkshakes, milk, and coffee), and now, I can have any kind of liquids, except for soda.  I still have raw spots, and anything carbonated just fizzles like pop-rocks and burns.  I can now swallow pudding and yogurt without any issues; however, other soft foods (or really chewed up solid foods) require me to wash them down with water.

It’s a slow recovery, but I am convinced it’s not forever, for that every few days, I am able to eat something new.

Benefits Outweigh The Risks

All though not a fun experience, I am grateful I didn’t experience any pain.  Hopefully, my swallowing continues to improve!  I look forward to the day I can eat a juicy delicious hamburger again.

But, this was a lesson learned; no surgery is without risks.  The inability to swallow is supposedly a rare complication, so I do not mean to discourage anyone from having their tonsils taken out; especially, if they need their tonsils taken out.  Sometimes the benefits do outweigh the risks.