Tonsillectomy & Adenoidectomy - The Good, The Bad & The UGLY

Not all children and people are created equally.  Sometimes babies are born with food allergies and sometimes they are born with ridiculously ginormous tonsils.  Fletcher was born with both.  He was also born with striking blue eyes, a hilarious personality, and a very strong will, so don't feel too bad for the guy.

Let me back up a bit. 

Fletcher was a late talker. At his 18-month immunization appointment and checkup, the doctor asked me if he was saying 30-50 words yet and I laughed.  There was no way.  He was nowhere near.  He said "garbage" and "car".  But it was more like "gaga" and "ca".  So my doctor offered to put him on a speech therapy wait list and also suggested that I get his hearing checked.  So, on the list he went and a phone call was made to an audiologist.

A week later at the hearing specialist, I found out that Fletcher wasn't hearing properly.  He was at about 60-70%, which would make sense why he really wasn't talking much.  My doctor then made us an appointment with an ENT (Ear Nose & Throat Specialist).   

A couple months later we met with the ENT.  He checked his ears and rechecked his hearing. Fletcher had made a vast improvement, still not 100% but his ears had cleared up significantly.  By now Fletcher had been saying more words too.  Still nowhere near 50, but he was making major progress.  

The doctor said that tubes might help but that we should wait another 6 months to see how he progressed.  I agreed with him completely.  The doctor also looked at Fletcher's throat.  He was taken aback by how large his tonsils were.  He also asked me how he slept at night.  "Sleep?"  I laughed.  "Ya, he doesn't do much of that."

The doctor asked me a bunch more questions about snoring and breathing at night and yada, yada, yada.  Then he told me to keep an eye on his sleeping.  To watch him sleep.  See if he wakes up gasping for air and if he snores all or most the time.  

So after giving me my homework, I made another appointment for 6 months and left.

Lots happened in those 6 months.  Fletcher gained a new baby sister, Finley, whom he adores.  He also started talking like crazy.  He went from 50 words to 100 to full sentences.  His vocabulary literally just blew up. But his sleeping did not improve.  In fact, it got worse.  He was definitely a snorer and he also was waking up several times to catch his breath.  

Always a mouth breather. 

Always a mouth breather. 

He also got strep throat.  5 times.  He would just get it, then get it again. He wasn't even in daycare at this time either, so he wasn't surrounded by germs.  

6 months later, back to the ENT we went with the results from my sleep watching homework and the new information about his throat illnesses. The doctor ruled out getting tubes in his ears, because by now Fletcher could hear great and he was also chatting away.  But his tonsils and adenoids were a concern and he recommended that we remove them.  

I of course, asked a zillion questions and ultimately made the decision to go forward with the procedure.  

End of backstory.

Fletcher got his tonsillectomy & adenoidectomy about 3 weeks ago now.  I am happy to say he is doing really well.  Now.  But it was a struggle.  It was not easy.  

Fletcher loves going to the doctors, so getting him to the hospital was easy peasy.  He is a weird child who smiles when he gets throat swabs and really isn't bothered much by immunizations.  He thinks doctors are almost as cool as the Ninja Turtles. Thank goodness, since we've seen a lot over the first 3 years of his life.

At the hospital, we were brought into a pre-op room.  Where you wait to get wheeled out to surgery.  The nurses asked me to put a gown on him and that was the worst of the morning.  He did not want to put the gown on.  Even though I called it a superhero cape.  Finally, after a good 20 minutes he agreed to put it on as long as I didn't tie it.  

Finally after putting his gown (super hero cape) on.

Finally after putting his gown (super hero cape) on.

Soon after he got wheeled out to a hallway to wait for the surgeon (the ENT) to take him in. First we were visited by the anesthesiologist who explained what kind of drugs he was going to give him.  He was a very friendly and very tall man that Fletcher really liked.  

When the nurse wheeled him off to the operating room, he whined a bit for me, but nothing like how he screams sometimes when I drop him off at daycare.  I'm sure I would have been a mess if he had.  So off to the waiting room I went. 

I waited for about 20 minutes and then the ENT came and let me know that the surgery went well.  That he had massive tonsils and adenoids and that he was certain that the procedure would drastically improve his sleeping and illnesses.  Great!

Then I went back to the waiting room. Other visitors came and went, came and went. I felt like I was waiting far too long.  More visitors came and went.  Then the volunteer hospital lady said, "You've been waiting a while, let me check on your son."  Of course that made me nervous.  She noticed that I had been waiting a while.  SOMETHING MUST HAVE GONE WRONG.  I didn't have long to worry thankfully, the volunteer came back quickly to tell me that he was fine, just taking his time to wake up.

Finally a nurse came to get me.  She took me to the post-op area.  She said he still hadn't woken up but I could sit with him.  Another nurse had been sitting with him rubbing his back.  Around me, other children were waking up and screaming. SCREAMING.  So I was a little nervous.  But Fletcher slowly woke up and other than being completely stoned, seemed totally fine.  

Slowly waking up.

Slowly waking up.

It took about an hour after he woke up to actually speak.  For a kid that literally won't stop talking, it was weird.  Fletch nodded when the nurse asked him if he wanted a popsicle. He held it, staring into space and would lick it when I reminded him.  When the drugs started to wear off more, he began to speak again slowly.  He drank the water and juice the nurses provided and he didn't complain or cry.  Kids on both sides of us were screaming and Fletcher was acting tired, but he didn't seem to be in much pain.

popsicles for the win

popsicles for the win

After a few hours we left the hospital and went home.  At home waiting for us was my husband Kevin, who left work early with the stomach flu.  Great timing right!??  I thought so too.  When we got home Fletcher  was surprisingly hungry.  Begged me for pancakes.  I thought that was weird.  The doctor told me he probably wouldn't eat anything for a couple days.  But he was starving.  So I gave him applesauce and some mushed up pancakes.  For the rest of the day we snuggled on the couch and watched movies.  I also kept making him drink every 20 minutes or so and kept up with his pain meds.  

That night, I slept with Fletcher.  I got very cold suddenly and had to put on a hoodie and sweatpants.  When I got up to get Fletchers medication a couple hours later I felt dizzy and disoriented.  Then it hit me, HARD.  I had to vomit.  Again, great timing, right?!  So the stomach flu that Kevin had, I now had.  So every 4 hours I had to give Fletcher medicine and in between I was up tossing my cookies.  Never had so much fun in my life. 

The following day Kevin stayed home from work because he still wasn't feeling great.  Thank heavens, since I was a lump at this point.  I felt like I couldn't lift my arms, let alone take care of a sick child.  

The first 2 days post surgery for Fletcher weren't bad.  He was in a decent mood and taking his pain medication and drinking regularly.  Day 3 brought a low fever, which made him lethargic and moody. Day 4 is when the recovery truly took a turn for the worse.  When the coughing began.  The doctor tells you to keep your child out of daycare or school or anywhere that might have a lot of germs.  This is so they can heal properly and so they don’t pick up any viruses.  Well, during the healing period we kept Finley in daycare.  With our luck of course, she brought home a virus.  Thanks Finley!  She had a little cough and runny nose which Fletcher caught, but intensified to the max.  He would have coughing fits that would just not stop. He also developed a higher fever and was refusing pain meds, fluids and all food.  We had to force him to drink and take his meds, but often he would spit it out. 

So day 5, I took him to the hospital.  I was scared because the coughing was so bad, I didn’t know how he could possibly heal properly.  The doctor gave us antibiotics for an infection, which he assumed he had due to the lingering fever. He couldn’t do a swab, because, well…OUCH.  He also prescribed Fletcher morphine for the pain.  I was totally thrown back by this.  MORPHINE?  For a 3 year old?  He assured me that it was a small dosage and as long as I didn’t give more than prescribed he’d be fine.  The doctor also told me that morphine actually suppress coughing, so it would killing two birds with one stone.

Day 6 and 7 were spent in mostly in bed, so lethargic and cranky.  He would sleep a lot, but once he was up he was a lunatic. He would scream and kick and spit and just throw the most insane fits.  He never cried out of pain, but I think that was his way of dealing – acting like a total crazy person.  So I retaliated the crazy with extra snuggles and kisses, or sometimes locking myself in the bathroom for 5 minutes to regain composure/cry.   

Fletcher's daycare friends are THE CUTEST.  This was sent home with Finley one day.  

Fletcher's daycare friends are THE CUTEST.  This was sent home with Finley one day.  

This continued, so on day 10 I called the doctor to see if I should be bringing him back in.  The nurse told me to try and give him liquids every 10 minutes.  At this point, giving him his medication was a battle.  I had to pin him down every time and he’d often spit it out.  I was also making him drink at least every hour but that was a struggle too.  So every 10 minutes was a little daunting.  But I set a timer and did my best.  The nurse said it didn’t matter how much he drank just how often.  He needed to get his throat wet.  So I put a little water in a medicine dropper and gave it to him.  This was a huge struggle but by day 12, he was definitely coming around.  I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Just in time for Finley to get the stomach flu.  But that’s a story for another day.

Now that we are 3 weeks post surgery, he is back to himself again, well a better version of himself.  Fletcher's sleeping has improved drastically. He even, *KNOCK ON WOOD* has been sleeping through the night.  He's also no longer a satan child from being in pain.  I am glad we decided to do the surgery, but if you had asked me 2 weeks ago.... I don't know if I would have said that.  I was too busy crying in the shower. 

If you know someone who's child is about to through this.  I've also listed 10 tips to get through a toddler tonsillectomy here.