Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tonsillectomy at 40

Last October I had my tonsils removed at the ripe age of 40. What an experience that was, probably being the hardest physical test I have ever endured.  I am normally one that handles pain fairly well, with a strong history of skateboarding, motocross, mountain biking, snowboarding, and so much more all that included seriously painful crashes.  Well, the recovery of the tonsillectomy just triumphs any past experience as far as pain and recovery go.   
October 30th 2009 was the day, and I was s thrilled to finally be ridden of Tonsillitis, the thought of never having inflamed, sore tonsils was almost a dream. I was ready! Day of surgery was not as bad as I thought, or should I say, I was not as freaked out as I thought I'd be.  Got to the surgery center at 7am, got into the smock, jumped into the bed, they threw warming pads over my core and i waited.  Thinking I was going to have an anxiety attack just sitting there, I actually impressed myself and held up rather well. The nurse said my pulse and blood pressure was normal, this made me feel a tad better, yet I thought at any moment I was going to jump up and say "forget it!". A friend told me the day before to use that idea as a way out, a way out in your mind and sort of mind trick. To know you have the option to say forget it, helps you deal with the anxiety.  By doing so, the feeling of being trapped evades you and you then feel the confidence of control. Well, until they sedate you, then you simply do not care. One minute I am sitting there talking to the nurses and docs and next minute I am feeling like I am fearless and the happiest dude in the world.  I remember talking about who knows what as they rolled me into the O.R., I then remember assisting the nurses in getting me onto the surgery bed. As soon as I get on the bed, I am out. 
What seemed like a flash in time, I was then awake in the recovery room, it seemed a lot busier in the room, more patients, nurses running around. One asks " Jim, awake up, how do you feel?" I said "good", they monitored me for a minute or two, then asked if i wanted a popsicle, "hell yeah!" so popsicle showed up and man it was a relief, so hungry and my mouth so dry, it was a great popsicle. The doc came to check up o me, I asked if everything went smoothly, he said it did, nothing out of the ordinary, that was good news. I asked to see the tonsils, he showed me as they sat in a zip lock sandwich bag.  They looked huge! They looked snarly! They were out!!! I looked at them like they were the criminal in the line up. Like they had been executed! What a relief to see them things out.  They planned to send the things off to the lab to be sure there was nothing to be concerned with as one was a bit larger than the other. And it turned out, there were no problems, rather just extreme case of tonsillitis.
I was freed about 3 hours later, and actually i kind of enjoyed my 3 hours there. I was feeling good, throat was numb, though they shut me down after 4 popsicles. I got dressed, they wheeled me out to the truck where my wife was waiting. I got in no problem, and headed home, got home and tried to eat some jello, went down ok, I also had some chicken broth, that was very good. Then I was stricken with extreme sleepiness, I crashed for about 5 hours.  Woke up, in pain! Serious pain! WoW the burn, the soreness, the swelling. It was madness! I had lortab in liquid form, i started downing that stuff right away. It was only good for taking the edge off, otherwise the pain was there. I ended up with no real schedule, I was up all night, drinking water every half our as I heard horror stories about bleeding, and how keeping the scab moist is the most important thing you can do. The next day was rough, could only do broth, jello was too painful, not that I was afraid of the pain, rather, the pain is so great that you worry about tearing a scab or damaging something. I drank broth for the rest of the day, later in the evening I tried an ensure shake, it went down well and became a staple for the remainder of the recovery.  The 3rd day really sucked! Pain, pain, pain, so severe I could hardly drink water. Lortab was there but honestly, you get a maybe 1.5 hr relief from it, so when you take it try to use that time to sleep.  Most of the time, the pain med absorbed only maybe 15% of the pain vs 50% for that small window of time.  
Day 4 -6 were bad, feeling like you will never heal, I was down 5 pounds and my stomach now hurt from the shock in diet change. I was feeling weak, and looking pale, I knew I had to consume more, so day 6 I tried a scrambled egg, it was rough! It hurt pretty good, it had to be chewed into liquid before swallowing, which was fine as I had read chewing helps with circulation and therefore the healing process.  
Day 7! Same thing,  pain! eggs, broth, ensure, lortab, tons of water. But that night, I went to sleep at 10pm feeling a little better, thinking I am out of the woods, spirits were rising. Then BAM! I wake up at 1am, thirsty, I get push myself up in bed, resting on my left elbow,on my side, I reach for my water and go to take a drink. I have to turn my head so it is level with the glass, so my neck is torqued to my right shoulder. I start drinking, I can feel a little stress as I was drinking in such a uncomfortable position. I feel this POP sensation in my throat. I put the glass down and I just keep swallowing as if I were still drinking the water. Only what was going down was warm! And then I tasted it! Blood! I sad up in a panic, and kept swallowing, ran to the bathroom sink and started spitting blood! My wife ran to the sink and told me to calm down, I told her I am bleeding bad! Call 911! She said lets watch it for a moment, they said it will stop.  Remembering that ice on the neck was needed I ran down stairs got the ice on my neck and called 911, I handed the phone to my wife as I started to panic. I felt like I wasn't going to make it. I started telling her I loved her and started thinking I was seriously done. But as I was sitting there with the ice, a very odd thing happened. This unreal calm came over me, I suddenly became very tranquil and relaxed, it was a fast change, like a button was pushed. I stayed relaxed until the EMT's arrived, they loaded me up and hauled me to the hospital. Bleeding slowed and I could feel a huge lump in my throat, almost blocking my breathing. We get to the hospital and get put into a room, and we waited, bleeding seemed to have stopped.  A ER doc comes in looks at my throat and says there is no more bleeding and that they are going to send me home. Well, after loosing so much blood I wasnt about to leave with the possibility of bleeding again.  We called our ENT docs emergency number, they have a small network of docs that work on call, basically they take turns on being on call for emergencies.  The on call doc shows up about 30 minutes later,  takes a look and says lets clean this up. I was happy, until he brought out this crazy mechanical thing and said he was going to have to inject a numbing solution into my throat. Crazy I thought! I open my mouth and PSSSHHHH! high pressure spray shoots down my throat I can feel something coating all the way down. Then with in seconds, everything is numb! He then starts scrubbing my throat, scrapping and coming up with blood clots, I cant believe I sat there through it with out gaging or freaking out. After 2 minutes of cleaning the throat, he injects a synthetic scab over the open wounds. He applies a bunch of pressure with a numby tool that basically fit into the sockets of where the tonsils were. In another couple of minutes he's done. I now have synthetic scabs in my throat. He said they wont peel off like the original scab rather these will disintegrate with time. Feeling much better we head home.
The next day I wake up in big pain again, probably due to the trauma the night before. The day got better and I was able to sit at the computer and work. It was the first day that I could actually sit and concentrate on a project, it felt great to be back at it. The next week was pretty much the same, same diet, pain when swallowing, yet standing pain was minimal. I was down 10 lbs, but consuming more and more. Day 10 I made it in to work, half day, and really not much help but it felt good to get back to my shop.  
Over the next few weeks, pain slowly subsided, the scabs were gone by week 4, the pain was still there, and the sensitivity to spicy or hot foods was unbearable. I also found that my taste for sugar had gone away, sugar tasted like metal, and everything else just tasted less. Meaning foods were half as flavorful. 
I am now at month 4, and have healed really well, though my taste is still a bit messed up. I can taste sugars in the front of my mouth, as they get to back of tongue the metallic taste is lightly there. I did have this feeling early on that my throat felt smaller, but that is improving as well, at times I had choking sensation when eating which has been improving with time. I dd'nt have desire for sugary foods anymore which really sucks, I find I eat salty foods, or now as time goes on more and more spicy foods. 
With the loss of taste and all that I went through, am I glad I went through with it? The answer is yes, I am. I have hopes that my sense of taste will come back, and again I have been seeing improvements. My tonsil problems are a thing of the past and I do not have to worry about having the surgery at 70, and no more irritating infections. In fact the last time I got sick a few weeks back, It was mild, comparing to what I was used to. In the past my tonsils would be the first thing to react to a flu or cold, and most of the time I would end up on antibiotics.  
I also feel like I have a bit more  energy, I believe the low-grade infections I would constantly have would wear on my immune system.