The Specific Ways that Recovering from an Adult Tonsillectomy Is Miserable

I wrote this on Day 9 after the surgery. Pre-surgery, I was trying to find info on what the experience was like. Everyone said it was miserable, but couldn’t explain anything beyond that. So, yeah. Read this, and then you’ll know.

  • The first couple of nights, there was phlegm or something in the back of my throat that made it so I couldn’t breathe out through my nose at night. This meant I didn’t really sleep the first night. It eventually meant having to breathe through my mouth, which dries out the throat, which causes it to hurt.
  • Trying to swallow (at night and not being able to), just keep trying till it finally works, having to wake up and sit up and sometimes drink a little water to make it happen. But then ten minutes later you wake up trying to swallow, can’t, and the cycle repeats.
  • The worst pain is on the sides of the tongue for no good reason. Water in my mouth sometimes makes either side of my tongue explode in pain — sometimes both sides. Any food in the mouth can do that at any time without warning.
  • The eating situation was better when I had my jaws wired shut. At least then, if I could get it past my teeth, everything was good. I could improvise some non-liquid foods into there. Plus, liquid foods didn’t taste like hate and stabbing.
  • Needing to clear my throat, but I can’t. Like, there’s stuff back there, but I can’t just clear my throat and go after it.
  • Forcing yourself to eat something you don’t really like (e.g., apple sauce) at 1:30 in the morning because you can’t take the percocet on an empty stomach and apple sauce is  “good to eat after a tonsillectomy”, it feels unfair when even that garbage that doesn’t taste good still hurts to swallow.
  • Every time I eat it’s painful. It was painful on Day 1. It’s painful on Day 9. I can technically swallow non-liquid things, but they’re painful. But so are liquid things.
  • Everything tastes like burning, rusted metal.
  • A milkshake tastes like a chocolate-flavored tangle of rusted out gears that leaves you unable to breathe at night. There is no food whatsoever that you can look forward to.
  • Supposed to eat cold things, but cold things hurt BY FAR the most. Supposed to avoid warm/hot, even though those feel relatively okay on the throat.
  • Most of the food that’s recommended is some sort of dairy. Dairy causes phlegm. Phlegm makes me need to clear my throat, which I can’t, and it keeps me from breathing while horizontal (i.e., while trying to sleep).
  • Realizing how much of social interaction is food based. Having to see photos people took of their dinner, having to be around people who can eat normally…
  • Waking up with intense throat pain in the middle of the night (once around 1-1:30, then again around 4-5). Then having to go take drugs, but swallowing (and putting any liquid in my mouth so I can swallow the pills) is agony. Then it takes a half-hour for them to start doing anything. Plus I have to eat with the drugs, which I can’t do without extreme discomfort until they start taking an effect.
  • Cutting my scab open with a canned peach, then bleeding all over the sink and having to go to the hospital for re-cauterization.
  • I’m now always being worried that it’s going to happen again. When it’s happening, you have no idea when the bleeding is going to stop, if it’s normal-enough, when it’s too much, etc.
  • Swallowing liquid (you know, like water), it very often goes down the wrong hole.
  • Throat-ear-head aches.
  • Through nine days, it seems to, if anything, be getting worse pain-wise. I can tell healing is happening, but it hurts at least as bad now as it did on the day of and after surgery. And the pain is constant, even when it’s being managed.
  • As many people said, the pain is worse after day 4 or 5 or so. As of day 9, it’s still at that level.
  • No energy to actually do anything. Focus and mental acuity is low, so it’s not like I can, like, paint or get ahead in class prep.
  • This has all put me in a crappy mood, to the point where I don’t want to interact with anyone, but am intensely bored and lonely. I find myself getting mad at the dog for being a dog.
  • Feeling guilty for not being nice to people because I’m in a lousy mood.
  • Can’t deal with extraneous inputs without getting angry. Two people talking at once, I want to punch one of them. Someone talking with the water running. The dog getting excited while I’m reading something. Can’t deal with it.
  • Tongue clamp numb spot still there nine days later.
To be fair, the pain started decreasing on about Day 10. And, about a month or so after surgery, there wasn’t any pain per se. But, two months later, my throat still doesn’t feel quite right — feels like there’s a layer of metal or plastic that someone put across it.
Even three and four weeks after the surgery, though, I couldn’t taste anything sweet. In fact, now, two months after the surgery, I’m still unable to taste certain sweet flavors — the ones that are most-disappeared are from unnatural sugars (so, for instance, diet soda just tastes like soda water), but there are plenty of random others also. Further, a lot of food is just gross to swallow (still, two months later). Particularly breads, chips, pasta, and other starchy things like Americans tend to eat constantly.
Anyway, those are my specifics. Enjoy my pre-op photo below. I don’t know what’s going on with my hand there.