I have recently undergone a tonsillectomy after suffering with recurrent tonsillitis for the past 18 months. I was at the point where I had tonsillitis that often, antibiotics were no longer working for me and my GP simply refused to give me any more as they were not doing anything to shift it. The pain was pretty bad almost constantly and I was suffering with terrible headaches as a result of septic tonsillitis, so my GP suggested referring me to a consultant at the hospital to consider what my options were.
After a few days my NHS Choose & Book referral came though and I was very surprised to see that the first appointment at both of my local hospitals was almost three months away. There was an option to see a consultant at the local BUPA hospital as a NHS patient with only a two week wait - it was a no brainer for me! When I considered waiting for an appointment at the NHS hospital, my first thoughts were "How many more times during that period am I going to get tonsillitis and how much more time will that mean off work?” That was my main concern, my constant absence from work. Fortunately for me, I have very good employers who totally understood the situation I was in and saw me unwell on a regular basis, but even still, there is only so much any employer will tolerate, after all, they need to think of their own business needs and a member of staff who is regular absent is no use to anyone.
I attended my appointment with the consultant and after a brief look at my throat - which as usual was septic at the time, he decided that the best way forward was for a tonsillectomy. He explained to me that they only performed this procedure in adults in extreme cases of 6-8 episodes of tonsillitis in one year, but agreed that it was important for me to undergo surgery to prevent further illness. I agreed, signed the necessary paperwork and was book in for the procedure six weeks later.
I was booked in for evening surgery and was nil by mouth from 11.30am on the day of my operation. I had to check in at the hospital at 16:00 and the consultants surgery started at 18:00. I was a little nervous, as at almost 30 years of age I have been fortunate to never need an operation or a hospital stay in my life. Thankfully, I did not have to wait too long and was taken for anaesthetic at 18:40. The rest is a mystery!
The next thing I knew I was in recovery, freezing cold and shaking with nurses putting lots of blankets and heaters on me to warm me. I was asked if I was in pain, to which I replied no, clearly in a daze from the anaesthetic. It did not take long for that woozy feeling to wear off and suddenly I realised how much pain I was actually in!
I was taken back to my room and helped into bed. The nurses were lovely and brought me oral morphine (which made me feel so sick the nurse then had to administer anti-sickness drugs) and water. That was when it first hit me how much agony it was to swallow! I cannot describe how much pain those sips of medicine and water caused me! I felt like I had something lodged in the back of my throat combined with the most horrendous stinging feeling I have ever felt! I would not consider myself a wimp normally (a Drama Queen as anyone who knows me will tell you, but when it comes to actual pain, I really am not a whinger) but it was the worst pain I have felt in my life.
Through out the night the nurse came in to check my blood pressure and to see if I needed pain killers on an almost hourly basis - I thought that was her lovely bedside manner, but I have since learnt from reading articles online, that this was because you are most likely to haemorrhage in the first 24 hours and they need to keep a close eye on you to ensure you do not need to go back to theatre to stop the bleeding. That would be my worst fear, my throat bleeding!
I did not manage to get any sleep that first night as I was in a lot of pain. Every hour seemed like a drag and I was wishing the night away so that I could just be discharged and get home to snuggle up in my own bed. Not before I had eaten though! The nurse kindly brought me two pieces of toast and a bowl a porridge and told me that I had to eat it all before the would discharge me. I dipped one piece of toast in my cup of tea and tried to eat it but the pain was horrendous! Not only was my throat sore, my lip was cut, my tongue was swollen to around three times its normal size, my face ached terribly and my teeth were SO sensitive from where my mouth had been clamped open during surgery so half of the battle was not being able to chew my food in the first place. I managed a few spoons of porridge and that one bite of toast and could not bear to eat any more. I kept being told "you must eat, the more you eat the easier it becomes and the scabs will fall off if you eat normally" - YUK! The thought was making me feel pretty queasy!
I was due to be discharged around 10:00 and my Mum came to collect me but it was decided that because I had not eaten enough, I then had to eat a ham salad sandwich before they allowed me to go. I literally cried with that bite of sandwich! I had to beg my Mum to eat half of the sandwich for me so that I could be discharged, on the promise to her I would eat later in the day and at my own pace when I was at home. I agreed - anything to get back to my own bed! I was sent on my way with Codeine and soluble Nurofen,
The rest of the first day passed in a blur and I hoped waking up the following day would be much better. I was mistaken! By the second day, I literally could not speak so I had to write notes for my boyfriend to tell him what I wanted. My Mum and Brother came to visit me and if I am honest, it was pretty much pointless, as I couldn't speak to them. They just sat on the end of my bed giving sympathetic glances and the odd "oooh" and "ahhh" here and there! What more could they do really?!
As the days passed, I slowly tried to eat a little more, but Ready Brek, ice pops, lolly ices and ice cream was my best friend in the first few days. By day 4 I was ready to be a little more adventurous so tried a boiled egg and soldiers - over an hour it took me to eat it! By the time I had almost eaten it, boredom had taken over rather than hunger!
By days 5 & 6 eating and drinking was becoming easier, although it was still stinging a lot and my speech was slowly getting back to normal.
As I write this post, today is day 12 and I woke this morning with a terrible sore throat after a few days of just starting to slowly feel normal again. I made an appointment with my GP who said that it looks as if I have a throat infection so gave me a course of antibiotics. I am signed off work for another six days so hopefully that will be plenty of time for me to get myself back to full health again.
Overall, the experience has been pretty bad. My advice to anyone would be to really consider if you need this operation doing. I can only assume that is why tonsillectomy's are not routinely performed in adults, because it is quite bad. I can only hope now that it will be worth the pain of the past two weeks in the long run and it will prevent me from being ill with sore throats in the future. Here's hoping!