My son gets his tonsils removed, and it’s a success!

Today was a momentous day in my son’s life: he went under the knife and got both his tonsils and adenoids removed. Why? Because his tonsils had become infected and swollen and a source of infection in his body, making him have a never-ending level of ill health.

Me, I also had my tonsils removed when I was 8, and have almost no memories of it other than how cool it was to be in a hospital, have new books to read (and, doubtless, some comic books too) and be able to eat as much ice cream and drink as much soda as I wanted. Nice! Pain? Drugs? No memories of that stuff. Probably just as well.

Digging around to learn more, I’ve learned that tonsils are lymph nodes, part of the immune system and that they apparently mostly serve as infection screening sensors: when they detect an infection in the mouth, they trigger the production of antibodies to help us stay healthy. Having ’em infected can really mess things up, as you might imagine.

Anyway, the experience was surprisingly good. We went to one of those newfangled outpatient surgical centers rather than a hospital, ironically the same place we took G- when he had some dental surgery about six months ago (man, it is the last place I thought we’d get familiar with. God bless those people with sickly children who do end up becoming familiar with these sort of places!)

The Lakewood Surgical Center is nice, small, very professionally run, and the entire staff is extraordinarily upbeat and friendly. Thank goodness too.

Linda took him in at around 8am, he was scheduled to be put under anesthesia at 8.30 and then have the surgery. Expected operation duration: 1 hour.

I had a funny conversation with him just before he went out too:

Me: I just wanted to say two things to you before you have your surgery, bud.
Him: I love you and don’t die?
Me: (laughs) No, I love you and I’ll be there when you wake up.
Him: (laughs) Okay, Daddy.

(it was only hours later that A-, our 11yo, told me that she’d be telling him all these stories about people who get put under for surgery and never wake up again, making him quite paranoid. Linda confirmed it independently by telling me that he’d told her he was so thrilled not to have died and that he was pretty freaked out about it. Jeez. Kids.)

tonsils in a jar
Yes, these are his tonsils

I arrived about ten minutes after they’d wheeled him in for surgery, so I sat in the waiting room, laptop open, slogging through my email queue while about 90% of my attention was on my son just a few walls away, unconscious, with people poking, cutting and sewing the back of his throat.

Linda took off to the local Starbucks to grab us some coffee and about fifteen minutes later one of the staff came out and looked around. She didn’t see who she expected and left the waiting room. I put two and two together, went up to the desk, and sure enough, he was done. One quick text message later and we were both talking with the surgeon about how things went.

The surgery evidently went very well. The tonsils were quite swollen and infected and she told us that it was actually easier to remove swollen tonsils than those that weren’t inflamed and were smaller. Good, whatever, at least it’s done.

Warning, gross part: His tonsils also apparently had lots of old, rotten food embedded in its “crypts” (yes, that’s the medical term) and it “vomited it out” when prodded (and yes, those are her exact words). So, yech, yech, the poor kid had a hanging sac of old, infected food hanging in his throat. Is that not extraordinarily disgusting?

We waited another 15 minutes or so and they wheeled G-, groggy but conscious, into a private recovery room. He had a small cup of apple juice that he sipped very deliberately and looked weak, tired, but damn, he’s a trooper and even had a bit of a smile for us when he saw us both.

The previous week he’d bid on, and won, some Pokemon cards on eBay while at my place and I brought them with me since they’d arrived in the mail the day before. It was a good move: we propped up his bed and he slowly looked through the 20-odd cards, whispering each name to me in a voice that was just barely audible.

The next trick out of my bag (thanks Felix!) was my Creative Zen Vision:W movie player, a device about 30% larger than an iPhone, that I’d loaded up with kids films, including Aristocats, Mary Poppins, and a few Scooby Doo favorites.

Perfect! He held onto it and completely unplugged from reality, just watching the film and ignoring everything else. For about 15 minutes or so. Then he put it down and lay his head back. A few minutes later he was asleep again.

The surgical center nicely let Linda stay with him for another 90 minutes or so until he woke up again, at which point they got him dressed and he walked to the car for the drive home. I’d left already to ensure I was back in time to get our 4yo K- from preschool.

I dropped off some post-tonsillectomy medicinal foods too: Superhero Popsicles, Otter Pops and more apple juice. Interestingly, the anesthesiologist told us that real juice popsicles are too acidic and that it’s the completely fake corn syrup ones that are easier on their raw, tender throats. A first: we skipped the healthy alternative for the mass produced bulk product.

About five hours later the girls and I stopped by Linda’s house to say hi and much to my surprise, G- came out and walked up to the car to see what was going on. Holy cow, the little guy was up, mobile, grinning, blue-mouthed (from the popsicles. What the hell is in those dyes they use??) and talking.

Since we’re separated (not quite divorced yet) and since all three children would ordinarily be with Linda today and tonight, we agreed in advance that post-surgery I would take the two girls so G- could have a quiet house and all of Mom’s attention. So far, so good. She reports that he had a bit of pain, she gave him some codeine, and he’s asleep.

That’s day one. I’ll report again in a day or two with more updates. Meanwhile, an intense day (it’s scary as hell to see your child in surgery and with heart monitors, IV bags and such!) followed by an afternoon that seemed more amusing than anything else.


Update: One week after the surgery, he’s doing well and has remained pretty surprisingly chipper. He’s a trooper, I say. Mostly he’s been bored, but it’s been obvious that he lacks his normal level of energy and just looks exhausted much of the time. The worst problem we’ve had was when he accidentally cleaned his teeth with a mint toothpaste which stung like heck for about 30 minutes. The healing continues…

9 comments on “My son gets his tonsils removed, and it’s a success!

  1. Dave, I’m really glad it went well! Aren’t the nurses awesome too? Ours took a polaroid of M’s tonsils and adenoids on a poster board drawn to be a puppy!
    He went from constant sore throats to less than 1 per year, and can breath better during rigorous sports.
    Hope you all have an easy week. And more popsicles!

  2. Good to know that all went well 🙂
    Btw the conversation.. ha ha!
    But you know, getting tonsils removed if they are not infected totally, would reduce the immune system in the body and it becomes more prone to infections. In your Son’s case, they were infected, so its OK!

  3. I remember having my Tonsils out ages ago at Swedish. I swear I was in and out in like 3 hours.
    My parents had bought me an awesome tape-playing robot thing, but it was broken!
    I spent the rest of the day refusing to eat popsicles and watching Salute Your Shorts.

  4. I thought I would eat noodles and tomato sauce while reading a blog. Wrong blog to read at lunch since I can’t tell the difference between my lunch and his tonsils.

  5. glad he came through so well, my stepson did this had a hard time waking from the anesthesia.
    and yeah, that was one of the GROSSEST TO THE MAX things i’ve ever read! ‘vomited’ it out!!!
    argh!!!that’s it-
    i’m never eating again.

  6. I had my tonsils out when i was a child and now I’m in my late 40’s and I was always a skinny kid and never felt hungry and after having my tonsils out i started gaining immense weight and my family had a joke about me saying since Frankie had his tonsils out he can get more food down his mouth BUT this has been a life long destructive experience with gaining weight losing and gaining weight and now I’ve been investigating it on the internet and i found out that the anesthesia could have caused problems with my pituitary glad where then one always feels hungry, has anyone heard of this or know any remedies to combat this because I’m at my wits end now with the weight gain and am tired of going up and down in weight and feeling hungry all the time it feels like I am up against a monster with this and just wish i could come in contact with the anesthesiologist who worked on me as a kid, boy would i tear into him now so he would be much more careful with other patients!

  7. Wow! Frankie…I had the same experience. I was skinny in Kindergarten, had my tonsils removed in 2nd grade and gained so much weight right after the surgery. I will look into the anesthesia issue further. I do not eat a lot of food now or ever and gain weight (I’m in my late 40’s also). thanks for sharing your experience. please post more if you find out further information.

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