My name is Sally, I am an Artist from the UK and just two weeks today I had a tonsillectomy.
On the run up to the date of your operation you are naturally curious to hear from others what their experience was to prepare yourself. I spent many hours trawling through the Internet reading peoples advice on what to have and do to make the recovery period easier.
After going through it, I now realise I have struggled to access the correct information regarding what to expect from the operation and recovery.
I have decided to write this blog post to help. I hope that I will inform anyone deciding whether the operation is the best way forward for them and those who have the procedure scheduled that want to know how to prepare for the day and the weeks of healing ahead.
I also hope to spare you from being misinformed, fearful or under prepared.
Tonsillectomy Recovery in the UK
The reason I have highlighted that I am based in the UK is because I read a lot of information that I now know to be wrong, due to the fact that in the US the treatment and advice following the operation differs to that given by surgeons and doctors in England.
How does it differ? Well in the UK you are told you must eat the same as you always do, hard foods are encouraged to promote the healing process of your throat. You will not be told to live off milkshakes, you won’t be given liquid medication and you certainly won’t be greeted from your operation with ice cream!
Support and help is key
First things first, if at all possible get a friend or family member to be around for you from the day of your operation for the first three of four days at least.
I had my fiancé and Mum with me on the day of my op, which was a great support to me, but I also liked that they were there for each other to keep one another company on what was a very long day.
You will need to book 2 weeks off work to recover.
My partner took two days off work to be with me. After that I would get up with him in the morning and be dropped off on his way to work at my Mums, in my PJ’s and get into bed there.
It is so important to have help and support, my third and fourth day were two of the most painful days for me. I think this was because whatever pain medication and other lovely things they filled me up with at the hospital had worn off.
At the hospital they had asked me what my pain was like out of 10 and had used this as a guide for how much pain medication to recommend I take. On day three, after looking at the recommended usage on the pack, I doubled my pain relief. You must listen to your body and react accordingly.
Getting My Operation Date
I have been struggling for nearly two years with repeated bouts of tonsillitis and in-between infections constant fatigue, pain and swelling. It was having a terrible affect on my daily life, I struggled with work and was unable to attend social events.
It took a very long time to convince my GP to refer me to an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist and by the time I was, the guidelines for tonsillectomies had changed in my area, Lancashire and applications for the operation were rarely accepted.
I saw the ENT in January 2017 and he said I needed them removed, but that it was unlikely the funding body would accept the application for the operation, due to the guidelines of having to have been prescribed antibiotics over 7 times in 12 months.
It was a battle until the end. It meant not accepting no as an adequate answer, asking question, expecting explanations and standing on people’s toes, but when it comes to your health and life you must push. You may find, like me, the reason you have been declined the operation is because someone along the way filled the form in incorrectly….twice. So please don’t give up, this operation has the potential to be life changing.
After 6 months of fighting I finally got some dates for the operation offered to me in June 2017.
The Day Of My Operation
My operation was scheduled for the morning, I was asked to be in at 8am but I don’t think I actually went into operation until around mid day due to some delays.
Before I went in they posted me a form to fill out regarding my health, which I posted back to them. The nurse in my room used this as a reference when speaking to me, but lots of people came in to speak to me who were involved in the operation and I felt they hadn’t read this information.
Things such as my allergy to egg and heart murmur the anaesthetist did not seem to be aware of until I mentioned it to him in person. So please make sure you remember to say all this again, even though you feel you are repeating yourself. After speaking to him he changed my medications due to my egg allergy and also ended up giving me antibiotics because of my heart murmur, which I believe had not originally been in their plan.
The surgeon came in and reeled off lots of information about what to look out for after the surgery, bleeding and infection etc. I found it over whelming and hard to remember, so I would say get them to write it down for you if you are not sure.
Make sure to take a dressing gown and slippers, I was not told to bring these and did not realise I would need to walk to the room for the surgery when I was wearing an open backed gown.
I am scared of needles and of the whole operation I was most scared of the cannula being put into my hand. I made sure to tell them this and they were very kind and reassuring about it. I don’t really remember being put to sleep, but I remember the anaesthetist holding my hand and talking to me in the last few minutes and I am very grateful for this. The tonsillectomy was the first operation I have ever had and the experience will forever stay with me, as it was as pleasant as it could possibly be.
I came round in the recovery room with two nurses taking care of me. I was then wheeled into my room where my Fiancé and Mum were waiting for me. I drank plenty of water and was in very little pain, in fact I was surprised at how well I felt. They kept me in only a couple of hours after the operation to see me drink, eat and go to the toilet, then I was sent home where I went straight to bed.
After the Operation
Good Things To Know
I discovered constantly drinking water is the best thing you can do. It is the night that is most difficult, when your throat dries up that the pain becomes hard to manage. I read that a humidifier is helpful to keep your throat from going dry at night; I bought a great one from Amazon that I do believe helped me sleep through the night. It was just £10 so not a big investment and very much worth a try so here is a link.
As your mouth heals from the operation it seems to develop white fluffy scabs, the aim of the game really is to get rid of these by eating and drinking until they naturally come away and reveal the healed skin behind. Eating hard foods is hard work but actually afterwards makes the throat feel a lot more comfortable.
With this in mind the first morning I ate some toast and my mouth seemed to fill with blood, I could feel and taste it trickling down my throat and I began to panic. We rang the hospital and they said to go to A&E. We were in and out in less than half an hour and it seemed I had worried for little reason, so I wanted to explain this to you guys to save you the stress and tell you what you need to look out for.
When you have your tonsils removed they cauterize the wound, which means they use a heated instrument to stop the bleeding and prevent infection. If blood starts to ooze from your throat and slowly stops you have nothing to worry over, you have probably knocked a scab, which will happen. If your throat starts to spurt and the flow is quick and continual you must go straight to A&E.
If you are unsure about anything, just go anyway! You are always better safe than sorry and it is best to put your mind at ease and speak to a professional.
I was very worried that I may get an infection as this was something mentioned by the surgeon before the operation. I was told to look out for bad breath and pain as a sign, but when you have a wound healing in your mouth you have both of these to a certain extent. I ended up getting a thermometer and checking my temperature around once a day, as a high temp is also a sign of infection and monitoring it reassured me that I was doing everything I could to look after myself.
Preparing For The Operation
As I mentioned briefly before, you will be expected to eat normally to promote healing. What you fancy eating after your operation will differ person-to-person, but here’s how I tackled it.
What To Eat And Drink
Anything cold and moist feels great on your throat; cucumber and lettuce leaves were one of my favourite snacks. You will quickly find out that you have to chew everything into oblivion before swallowing and you will need a drink by your side at all times. Iced water was great for easing the pain, throbbing and swelling, so fill your freezer with a big bag of ice as well as ice cream and ice pops.
For the first couple of days I enjoyed eating warm chicken noodle soup with a little toast on the side. After that I would eat normally but nothing over seasoned or spiced, just smaller portions as eating felt exhausting. You need to eat each time you have your medication so think of snacks to line your stomach.
You will be given a Difflam throat spray and strong pain killer such as Codeine Phosphate by the hospital. Depending on how you manage your pain however, there may not be enough to see you through.
I would recommend buying a Difflam Spray before the operation, as well as Tyrozets Lozenges to have ready at home. Tyrozets do a similar job to the spray, but have an antibiotic in to help fight throat infections. You can purchase both of these over the counter at any pharmacy.
You will need to take Paracetamol along side the Codeine, so make sure to stock up on this, if you are taking two four times a day that can stack up very quickly and I was always running out.
I downloaded an App that I found very helpful with keeping track of my medication, it is called Medisafe and I cannot recommend it enough. It reminds you when and what to take so when you are napping you don’t miss something and wake up in pain.
I needed to order more Codeine from my doctor quite quickly and it was made a lot more complicated than you would expect. Make sure you do this with plenty of time before running out of tablets; going without is the last thing you would want.
Medication Side Affects
Unfortunately the pain relief you are prescribed may have the side affect of making you constipated, to avoid discomfort I would advise you attempt to eat plenty of fibre. I would have milky Weetabix and lots of blueberries, but if this doesn’t tackle the problem and you haven’t been to the toilet in over three days you will need to use a constipation treatment, so make sure to have this in the cupboard just in case.
If you are anything like me you will live in your PJ’s for the next couple of weeks and spend the majority of the first week in bed. At the hospital you will be asked to wear embolism stockings 24 hours a day until you are back to full mobility.
For whatever reason I was only given the pair I put on at the hospital, they got grubby and uncomfortable very quickly, but I was not up and about until the second half of the second week so did not feel comfortable removing them. Make sure to ask for a spare pair before you leave, that way you will be able to wash and swap them over.
My main advice is, allow yourself the time to recover and drink plenty of water.
I hope you have found this information useful and that the operation goes well for you. The main thing to focus on is that this will be the last tonsil related pain you will ever have to experience and isn’t that an amazing prospect?