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.)
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…