Recovery Journal of an Adult Tonsillectomy Survivor
Nothing can prepare you for the after effects of UP3 surgery. I couldn’t get straight answers or advice on what to expect other than it was going to be very painful. I have had nine abdominal surgeries and more than three tattoos and I can guarantee that nothing can prepare you for the type of pain you will experience with a UP3 surgery.
What is UP3 ? Well, it has a rather long unpronounceable name but basically it is having your tonsils removed and your uvula (that little do-hicky that hangs at the back of your throat like a finger) removed, as well. I was under the impression that my uvula was going to be shortened and stiffened up so it would not fall back into my throat while I slept but when I got to peek at my throat after surgery it was entirely gone. I know having your uvula removed seems drastic but after I researched the procedure I learned that it is a big contributor to the snoring problem.
Why am I having UP3 surgery? I have obstructive sleep apnea and my tonsils are enormous. I stop breathing approximately 40 times an hour when I sleep, which means I really don’t sleep unless I’m driving. The falling asleep while I’m driving prompted me to take action because that’s a huge safety issue not just for me but for anyone around me. I do have a CPAP machine which constantly shoots spurts of air up my nose all night but the machine isn’t working as well as expected. My tonsils are a big issue because they have been enlarged for over twenty years and I get food and bacteria stuck in them all the time and they are also a big contributor to the sleep apnea issue. When I breathe, as I sleep, my tonsils come together and seal off my throat, so I can’t breathe. Kooky, I know but that’s what is going on.
It was a little difficult trying to get insurance to cover my surgery. I know the problem is linked to my age, because I am almost 40 yrs old. I was told in my twenties that my tonsils will shrink in my thirties and in my thirties I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea. My specialist had to appeal the insurance company decision for denial of coverage and finally they agreed that the surgery was medically necessary and it was one of my happiest days. I really wanted my tonsils out. They had become so diseased and abnormal and I didn’t know the entire effects that they were having on my health.
I am writing this journal type article so if you are considering this procedure you have more information than I had. I don’t think I was as prepared as I should have been. I’m not a big baby when it comes to pain, but I think I could have handled my recovery period better if I knew what awaited me as I healed from surgery. I will cover every day for the first week after the UP3 surgery and then the next three weeks a week at a time.
Day 1 (Surgery): Today started off well, even though I didn’t have my surgery until 12:30pm. I hate not being able to eat after midnight and then wait all day until surgery. I knew I wasn’t going to be eating much for a few days after the procedure so I made sure I had my big dinner the night before. I had homemade Philly Steak and cheese sandwich on an open-faced piece of French bread, warm potato salad (German potato salad) and cherry crisp, YUMMY!
The incoming nurse was a delight to talk with and made prep for surgery and my wait better than it could have been. After being prepared for surgery I was taken to a holding area and met with two nurses who were in charge of my care for the entire surgery. We all had a nice discussion about margaritas and sirloin steak dinners and believe it or not, don’t ask me how, we had a good laugh over booby tassels which I was promised would not be on my nipples when I woke up in recovery and to my disappointment there were no booby tassels dangling from anything. I spoke with my specialist before surgery and thats the last thing I remember as I was being wheeled into the operating room door and lights out!
The procedure was about 45 minutes long and I had no complications. I have to tell you that the first thing I noticed when I woke up in recovery was I could breathe 100% better than before. My enlarged tonsils blocked a large portion of my throat and I felt better with them gone. I didn’t know how bad my quality of life was until my tonsils were gone and my health was improved. Who knows what effects having diseased tissue in your body can have on your health until you get it removed? Another thing I noticed when I woke up in recovery was that it felt like I had a bristle brush stuck in my throat. I was relieved to find out that dissolvable stitches were used for my uvula area, but it still felt weird!
I spent the night at the hospital for observation because of my sleep apnea and my age. For some reason having your tonsils out later in life is a whole lot harder on you then if you were a child. I wasn’t expecting to eat for a couple of days but dinner time came and I was brought a dinner of mashed potatoes, three slices of roast beef and soft, cooked carrots. I managed to eat most of my dinner after ingesting my pain meds. I was given steroids along with my pain medicine for swelling. It felt weird when I ate that first time until a week later and even when I drank; it felt like everything was going to come out my nose and I got food and pills stuck in between my nose and throat. I was told by the specialist that this will pass and I needed to allow time for the swelling to go down and my throat to heal for items to go down the right way.
Day 2: I made it through the night ok. I was put on an oxygen reader to make sure I was breathing an acceptable level of oxygen. I didn’t get much sleep because of the pain. Each area of your body can deal out pain differently and after having six abdominal surgeries I thought I would do ok but there is no description I can give for the pain level you experience with throat surgery. It was pretty much bearable until I went home. I got released late in the morning and was given a script for antibiotics and pain meds. I also had to add Sudafed and a laxative to my meds. The Sudafed was for sinus drainage and you need a laxative because pain meds stop you up and I was miserable enough.
Forget about ice cream and popsicles after a tonsillectomy. I tried eating cold items and all they did was burn like someone had a blow torch burning my throat. It was better for me to drink warm tea. Anything cold was difficult to ingest and anything with milk made eating and drinking even more unpleasant so I tried to stay away from milk products and cold food. I literally lived on warm berry tea, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and jello.
Day 3: I feel no better than I did the day of surgery. I am pretty disgusted. I thought that I would be feeling better by day 3, but I am not. At this point I am just trying to muster the energy to get through another day.
Day 4: I am out of pain meds and I want to cry. I have been taking 2 vicoden pills every four hours and it is barely helping with the pain. The pain meds are making me very tired and itchy all over so my husband has went to the doctor’s office to get me something different. The nurse at the doctor’s office told my husband that I was not going to feel better for at least a week. Wow, I feel hopeless right now. I was relieved when the hubster came home with Percocet. Percocet has worked a little better and now the pain is bearable. I still must take 2 pills before I eat or forget eating because it is not worth it. When I don’t eat I just take one Perc. I hate pain pills. I will never understand how people get hooked on them. I don’t like the side effects.
Day 5: I am still trying to just get through the day. I sleep much better at night and have noticed a major difference in how I feel; I have more energy and I feel rested after sleeping. I cried today over mashed potatoes and small curd cottage cheese. I am not a happy camper.
Day 6: I cried over applesauce and pudding. It hurts to swallow, I can’t yawn and just try to blow your nose without wanting to fall over and die. This pain is ridiculous. I woke up in the middle of the night with a dry throat and more pain than I could imagine so I dragged myself downstairs and forced down some pain meds to help me take the pain.
Day 7: I have reached a turning point and the pain has become a little bit more bearable. It is still difficult to swallow and it seems my body wants to produce more saliva, probably because I am trying to avoid swallowing. Having a humidifier has helped me at night. I have used the humidifier since coming home and it feels good when I breathe at night and helps make things a little easier. I will be out of pain meds in three days and will have to take a trip to the doctor’s office before the weekend hits, so I am covered. My bristle brush seems to be disappearing and my stitch line looks smoother today. When I first looked at my throat after surgery it looked like a shark took a bite out of the back of my throat; it was kind of scary. I was wondering about why I wasn’t directed to gargle but I am guessing it is because so I don’t dislodge a clot and the antibiotics are for any possible infection. I was able to eat scrambled eggs for breakfast and I had a vegetable soup for lunch. The macaroni and cheese was a little uncomfortable to eat for dinner, but I managed.
I imagined the pain to be like a terrible strep throat infection and feel like I was swallowing tacks but it is so much worse; it is indescribable. Even after all the pain I have had and the trouble I have had with eating I would still have had the surgery done. I have noticed changes in my hair and skin, my breathing has drastically improved and my energy level has increased and I know, without a doubt, that the surgery was a success and that I just have to get over the recovery hump and then I am home free. Hopelessness is out the window today.
Well, I made it past week two and I'm still kickin! I can yawn now and eat more foods. These past two weeks have been a long road to ho but it is getting easier. I went to my specialist this past week and got a good exam grade. I know it sounds gross but my scabs are looking good. I asked what the white coating at the back of my throat was and was told that that was the scabbing and some bacteria. My specialist told me I would feel some tightening at the back of my throat but that was normal because some scar tissue will grow. Now, I was surprised I wasn't told to gargle or anything like that after surgery but I was given antibiotics and I guess that gargling wasn't necessary.
I am through week three and still improving. I am a little hesitant on eating spicy foods. I think salsa would burn like an S.O.B. and I haven't touched any alcohol but my Diet Coke is going down ok. It is somewhat difficult to yawn and sneeze. Those two items come with discomfort but my quality of life has greatly improved and I don't regret the procedure.
I have recovered quite well. I have some tightening at the back of my throat and I still am careful when I cough or sneeze. I haven't touched spicy foods but everything else has gone down ok. I recently found a few forums on obstructive sleep apnea and there seems to be alot of controversy as to the positive and/or negative effects of UP3 surgery. I don't regret it so far but some forums say you feel better until the two year mark, post surgery, and then your breathing ability diminishes and UP3 is not a standalone procedure. There are other surgeries available for obstructive sleep apnea (ie. a type of nasal surgery, having part of your tongue removed and having your jaw realigned). I really hope I don't need anymore surgical procedures. I believe the UP3 surgery should be enough for my sleep apnea problems but I guess only time will tell.
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- Website of Independent Author Kimberly Bennett
Website of Independent Author Kimberly Bennett