How I Loathe Thee Adult Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy!

I’ve been noticing a lot of traffic on this page! Feel free to leave a comment about your LOVELY tonsillectomy experience and check out Part 2 at the bottom!

As an adult at 25 years old, I decided to get a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy because I am a chronic tonsil stone and strep throat sufferer. As a child, I had strep throat so frequently that I became so used to the feeling. I never knew I had strep throat until a doctor would diagnosis it stating how “severe” it was. My brother and I actually turned it into a game of who gets strep throat the most. I kid you not. But back to those tonsil stones, the real reason I got the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery as an adult. 

I had never even heard these pesky things before, but no matter what I did they would suddenly appear and come for several days before making an exit. Finally, I was fed up. I decided to google “white boogers in mouth.” Tonsil stones showed up and it was crazy to put a name to these little boogers. I thought that I was the only one or that it was so common people do not talk about it. I called my ENT and set up an appointment ASAP to see what can be done to prevent these. 

What a beaut of a tonsil stone!
Oh hey tonsil stone. I’m trying to shop at Target here!

I went to my Adult & Child ENT on February 18th and he told me that the only way that I could stop these suckers from forming coming was to get the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery. They were “pretty good sized” tonsil stones, so he felt confident that it was a good decision. No matter how many you remove or how often you do it: They. Will. Always. Come. Back! I agreed without any hesitation and asked when his next available appoint would be to schedule my adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. His next available was February 26th. Before I could even ask what today’s date was I booked the appointment. I did not want to live one more day with these white boogers. I seriously walked out of the office and thought “seriously? I’m going to do this?” February 26th was D-Day.

There is one thing that I am thankful for and at times not thankful for. My ENT downplayed the adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery a lot. He said I won’t die. I will make it through it. It’ll feel like you have a sore throat for a few days, but you will be fine. Adults who get tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery do feel it worse than children and sometimes there are complications, but that those are rare (EDIT: I ended up being that “rare” case. I needed a second surgery to stop bleeding). I had a friend who several months previously had her own tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy as an adult. I knew pain was involved. She researched like crazy to know what to expect. I on the other hand, didn’t. I did not want any information to make me cancel the surgery, back out, and be stuck with the dreaded white boogers. I couldn’t change the fact that it may hurt, but now is my chance to stop the tonsil stone issue once and for all.

My friend’s biggest complaint after her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy as an adult was ear pain, so that is the one thing I would always dwell on. I made my husband research ways to prevent it, to help it, when you get it, how long it will last, what meds can help, so I would not look further into the recovery “accidentally” and back out.  My nerves finally kicked in at 3:30am, the morning of my surgery. I woke up trembling for no reason.

Day 1 – Wednesday the 26

I got to the hospital at 6am. I was fine at the hospital up until talking to the anesthesiologist. Everyone was nice and I was prepped and readied for my adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery. I met with the nurses, anesthesiologist, and with my ENT again to reassure me that everything would be okay.


Waiting for the anesthesia

At 8 am my husband left for work and I was wheeled into surgery. the last thing I remember was the anesthesiologist asking me “can you feel that?” I responded “no” and then nothing. I was awake and out of my adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy before I knew it.

This is my first surgery and first time on anesthesia. What really surprised me was that I felt like I slept. I always thought with anesthesia you would feel like you just blinked and were awake. I felt well rested. The pain I felt after the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery was horrible. I woke up screaming the instant I came to. I felt everything in that instant. I’m not sure if it is because I’m an adult and we have bigger scar tissue or if it’s just how it goes. They had to give me 2-3 shots of pain meds and steroids through my IV due to the pain.

I had to wait the 2-3 hours for a post-op room after surgery being babysat by two nurses. I was constantly being scolded for things that I was doing. “Don’t rub your eyes! Don’t cross your ankles! Don’t sit up! Don’t clear your throat!” Well damn. What can I do? Am I allowed to breathe? Clearly crossing your ankles can cause circulation issues, on anesthesia if you rub your eyes you sometimes cannot stop, and clearing your throat may cause the stitches to rip. I’m completely drugged up and whatever they are saying I cannot even comprehend besides the fact that I am uncomfortable, in serious pain after the adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy!

As they were wheeling me into the post-op room I became so nauseous. They say that is common, especially for adults when getting their adenoids removed. All of the movement and the motion of the elevator…all I wanted to do was vomit. I had to stop them to regain my composure and they had me smell an alcohol pad. The nurse said that usually it helps to subside the nausea. I’m not sure if it actually worked, but I held out long enough to get to my room, on the other bed, and then pass out.

Overall my vitals were really good: normal blood pressure, normal body temp., normal pulse.

I had about 3-4 bags of fluids in me during my stay (that I was awake to notice). I was pumped up on steroids through my IV and taking liquid Tylenol with Codeine. I could barely stay awake all day. My mom came to visit me and all I did was sleep, use the bathroom, and drink water. I was in and out of it all day from the anesthesia and the morphine. The drugs and anesthesia made me off balance, so I had the nurse walk me to and from the bathroom all day and night.

Hospital bling

My biggest concern was hydration after the adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery. I was given the option to leave right after surgery, but I felt that it was more beneficial for me to stay and get the IV’s. If anything happens they can be there ASAP. I drank lots of water. I think the most important thing that kept me feeling good was that I was always drinking. I never gave myself an excuse to not drink. I was also attached to a humidifier mask, so that if I fell asleep and my mouth opened, my throat would not get dry and painful. The only thing I had to eat was one little thing of jello that day and a Vanilla Bean Coolata from Dunkin Donuts that my husband brought me. (that was my go to drink during recovery, cold, smooth, and it helped keep the swelling down). They say that adults recover and feel it the worst after a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery.

My husband stopped by to get me a coolata that night and some flowers:
The first night I didn’t sleep much. I had my bed up high with my pillows really elevated. The last thing I wanted was to feel like I was drowning. I got MAYBE 3 hours of sleep that night. My biggest complaint was that my throat was so dry and no matter how much I drank it wouldn’t subside. I don’t know how to explain it. It felt like in the bottom of my throat there was a big scab or it felt super swelled. Rather than my saliva staying in my mouth, it would go straight there and collect. I ended up drinking so much water just to keep my throat somewhat moist.

Day 2 – Thursday the 27

I didn’t sleep all night while I was in the hospital, so I was up waiting for the AM shift nurse to come on duty because I knew once she fell asleep she would come in to wake me to go home. Most of it was a waiting game. Other patients had to get helped first because they were critical. She had to get my paper work together. After I waited at the hospital for 2 hours with another Vanilla Bean Coolata in hand, I was finally wheel chaired out to the car!

Before I left my vitals were good. No fever, normal blood pressure, normal heart rate, and my tonsils were already healing nicely and really good, “without any swelling” that she could see. The nurse was surprised at how well I was feeling afterwards. Most patients, especially adults, never leave the bed, cannot walk, or even make it out of the room. I was up and moving about. My only complaint was that I felt so hot. I would occasionally break into full body shakes from my body and temperature trying to re-regulate itself. I was very red in the face and I felt like I was overheating, but I did not have a high temperature. My throat was not my biggest complaint.

My throat following the adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy was a little uncomfortable, but it was manageable. I spent the day feeling surprisingly pretty good. It felt as though I never went through surgery at all besides the discomfort. I was surprisingly talkative and couldn’t sit still.

My husband (thank God for him) was the main reason I made it through the recovery partially sane. The first night at home I had an alarm clock set for every hour to wake up and drink some water to keep my throat moist, put an ice pack on my throat to help the swelling go down. My husband had another alarm clock set to take my medicines. I slept more than my husband did that night. I ended up sleeping most of the night in between all of the alarms, medicine, and water drinking.

Home Sweet Home!
Notice: my face is really red in the cheeks. They were on fire.
Our guard dog. 
Back home still meant elevated pillows and ice packs.
 Days 3-5 – February 28-March 2

The 3 days didn’t seem any different from the first two honestly. I felt a little more comfortable. The swelling had seemed to have gone down and I wasn’t in that much pain. Eating was the hardest part, but I was actually able to eat rather than sip on water. I was still on the strict schedule of waking up every hour to drink water, taking my pills, and if need be icing my throat.

My first post-op since my adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy scare happened. Everything was going good and normal until I woke up on day 4 after a 90 minute sleep period. I could get air through my throat, but I could not swallow anything and had difficulty talking. I thought my throat was swelling shut and then panic started to set in. I was doing whatever I could to get it to un-swell. Crushed up ice and put it in my mouth so it would melt down, crushed Popsicles with the same method, crushed up Percocet in a coolata to slide down my throat to potentially reduce the swelling. Nothing seemed to be able to do the trick and I could barely even talk.

We drove to the ER where I had my adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery done in the first place. I could barely talk and was in tears from pain. I waited there for 20 minutes while trying to talk to the on call ENT with my throat swelling. A man walked in after me and was seen instantly while I was still waiting. After 20 minutes I walked out and went to another ER.The other hospital got me in before I even finished registration. They gave me a shot of a steroid in my arm muscle within 5 minutes of being there. My ENT on call doctor spoke to the ER doctor and they prescribed me one of those 7-day Methylprednisolone Steroid packs. Literally, after not even 30 minutes after that steroid shot, everything started to loosen up and I could finally swallow, sleep, and everything was back to normal. I definitely slept after that. A little more fearful of how it would be when I woke up, but the fact that I was able to breathe, swallow, and felt less blockage in my throat was so amazing for me.

Food of Choice: 

  • mac & cheese
  • instant mashed potatoes
  • chicken noodle soup
  • jello
  • Vanilla Bean Coolatas
    I’m not sure if anyone shares my love for jello at this point.

Day 6 & 7 – March 3-4

The steroids in conjunction with my antibiotics and my pain killers seemed to be doing well. They were doing a really good job of relieving the pain, irritation, and the swelling from the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. I was up all night however, with my current bought in this adult tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy recovery saga.

Scabs Falling Off
I never thought it would be this annoying. I never even thought about scabs or the healing process. I’m not sure if it was even a pain, but more of an uncomfortable sensation that made it unbearable. It just felt like someone was pulling the scabs to the back of my throat. Not ripping them off, just pulling hard to the back of my throat. Whenever I swallowed I could feel the burn down my throat. All day it has felt very tender and sore.

I decided to help the process of the scabs a little more and instead of just eating soup, mac & cheese, and things that slid down easier, I was going to have croissants with a lot of butter, so that it was hard, but still soft enough to knock some of those suckers off. It actually helped to get a good amount of scabbing and my throat felt clearer.

I still was unable to sleep because at night the annoyance/irritation would get worse from the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery. I would wake up after an hour of sleep to drink water and just stay awake all night because I felt “heart burn”. I was getting it up the left side of my throat. If I drank a cold glass of water, I got it. If I got up to flip on my other side, I got it…always on the left side and always down my throat. I later found out that it was just the nerves trying to get back to normal, but that kept me up all night. I was so annoyed and resulted in measly 2 hour (at the most) nights of sleep. I had my husband drive me at 5 am to drive me to Walgreens to pick up Tums because I wanted to get rid of this, but it did nothing.

Day 7 was the worst for me in regards to constipation. Yes, I went there! Constipation is common after an adult tonsillectomy and adnenoidectomy after taking pain meds and not eating foods in my typical daily diet (fiber, grains, vegetables, etc) made it really hard on my bowels. I usually eat fiber gummies to boost my fiber intake, but for obvious reasons I couldn’t because swallowing was way too hard.

Days 7 & 8 were the most emotional for me it seems. Where everything just took a turn and went from “I can do this” to “Is this seriously STILL happening?!” Most of the recovery I had an “I can do it!” mentality. I would suck it up and not complain because tomorrow will be better, so why complain. Why complain today if today could be the last day for pain and tomorrow is better? The constant up and down of emotions of the recovery, being stuck inside recovering, being around people who don’t understand what you are going through, and never knowing when it is going to be over are emotionally taxing. It’s so open ended. It truly is depressing. It has been a little over a week, but one realllly long week. This might actually be the worst part of the tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy recovery. 

At this point it felt like a bad case of strep throat. It hurt to swallow. It hurt to talk. I still wasn’t sleeping. I would wake up every hour to get water to not dry out my throat, but was in pain from waking up for the water, that I couldn’t fall back to sleep because I was drinking water, getting popcycles,  getting ice packs, getting iced drinks to try to stop the pain in my throat.

I also had my post op today. I’m healing well. My tonsils look good and look up to par of what they should at day 8. I was also told that I might totally bypass the ear aches since the window is usually day 7-8 and being in day 8 meant my chances were less likely. Hallelujah!

I got a prescription for Vicodin 5/325 instead of my Percocet 5-325. Percocets are stronger, but I really did not like reaction I was getting from them. With percocet I was getting really dry skin all over my face. Only my nose and cheeks were peeling. Nothing, but hydrocortisone worked for me. I also would wake up scratching my face and neck. The top half of my body would be so itchy and I had scratch marks all over my back. My skin was also flush. I would go through times where I would have a red hot face, but I had a normal temperature body, so I would get shivers from the temperature difference.  I also was out of it. I would be pulling on my hair for no reason.

Percocet was also exhausting. I would take the pill and then get so tired I couldn’t text, email, or function. I cannot tell you how many times I would be texting someone and fall asleep 3 words into the text and then get woken up to my phone slamming on my face because I dropped it on my head in my sleep. It’s hilarious, but not fun. I could not make it through a text, a magazine, or a tv show. I could barely keep my eyes open once I took the pills.

After I got home from the appointment it slowly got worse until it was full on unbearable. You couldn’t nap, eat, swallow, or anything. Talking got even more painful. I still ate from day 3-day 8. They weren’t huge meals, but they had some sustenance more than liquids. I had overly soggy and soft hash browns in the morning, a bunch of iced drinks and water throughout the day, mac & cheese for lunch, and dinner I had baked ziti. Swallowing again proved to be the most difficult. As the night went on nothing could make the pain stop.

At this point it doesn’t seem any pain meds help. I’m not sure if they even reduce the pain. Pain seems to be in full throttle at this point. Maybe this will alllll be over in the morning! It feels like a bad case of strep throat times 10. I started to get minor ear aches late last night. I iced it all night, chewed a bunch of gum last night and just hoped that the 2 days left of steroids could help me to avoid the ache. I fell asleep late last night and woke up every hour to drink water. It seems like it is taking me even longer to “recover” from waking up.

Day 9 – March 6

I have read this before and I realized I am the same way. You keep the pain to yourself. You hope tomorrow it will go away and if you just quietly keep the pain to yourself and how terrible you feel then eventually you will feel better. What does complaining do? I know the pain could be gone tomorrow and it could all be over. Everything could be completely back to normal again. Today COULD be the worst day, but it’s the fact that today is the worst day so far. It’s dreadful and it could possibly be worse tomorrow, or the day after, and for however long it takes to heal. I try to not complain and I try to suck it up. Some days I have moments of weakness where I’m just really annoyed and tired of dealing with the pain, laying in bed all day, and falling asleep because of pain meds. Other days I see the light at the end of the tunnel and there is an end in sight. Today…there is no light. I woke up in pain after an hour of sleep. Popcycles, water, coolata, pain meds (4 hours had passed, so it was time)….still awake 2 hours later trying to subside the pain.

I ate some hashbrowns that were super soggy for breakfast. I ate them 45 minutes after my pain pill because I knew all too well that this will probably be the most I will be eating all day at this rate. At this point my ENT said that I just gotta ride it out and wait for this bad part to subside.

They prescribed me with a gel that you mix with water and you “gargle” it. It numbs your throat. It’s supposed to last 4 hours…it doesn’t. It lasts like 1 hour. It also doesn’t reach the worst part in your throat. It numbs around in front of that area but doesn’t actually reach that point in your throat that feels like death. So besides my Vicodin and my numbing gargle I’m out of luck and just have to hope today is the last day of pain.

And when all else fails….

Cuddle with your dogs. They always make me feel better.

And then…this happened:

And there was lots more where that came from….

The rest of my recovery is continued on here. Hemorrhagingx2, a SECOND surgery, and all.

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