Tonsillectomy Recovery Part 3: Slogging Through the Swamp of Endless Horrors

Here is part 3 of my tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy journey through hell, documenting the second week of recovery. Things have not been going well. Prepare yourself for talk of blood and vomit and grossness. No pictures.

Day 7...
was uneventful. Same level of pain as before.

Day 8...
the pain increased a little and changed its form. I think my scabs are getting ready to fall off because I feel something tickling the back of my throat making me want to cough all the time. My throat now is starting to sting sharply, on top of the sore achey tightness, every sip of water feels like broken glass cutting up my throat. So tired all the time.

Day 9...
I started being able to eat real solid (but soft) foods like mac n cheese. Starting to feel better but just very very tired. I keep getting hiccups which is pretty painful as well.

Day 10/11...(The Return)
Pain is decreasing a lot, feeling better, eating more, getting up and about more. Everything seems to be going well until I wake up in the middle of the night and it’s happening again-- Blood is pouring out of my mouth.
I swallowed a lot of it before realizing what was happening. Here I am leaning over the sink at 3am again in total panic. This time, I was better prepared and had a cup of icy water by my bedside. After the last incident I was told I should be able to stop any bleeding on my own by gargling icy water to constrict the blood vessels and I was faithfully ensuring I always had some with me. It helped slow things down but I had clots stuck in my throat that made me cough and restart the bleeding over and over. My parents decided to drive me back to the emergency room where my night unfolded into a total nightmare.
The ER staff was baffled and very concerned that I was so many days out from the surgery and this was happening again. All they could think of was what I was already doing: gargling cold water. They hooked me up to an IV for hydration and watched for a while as things got worse. I started coughing up big clots that were lodged in my throat and they hooked up a suction thing like at the dentist to try and get it all out but it kept coming. All the blood I had swallowed earlier made its reappearance and I was an endless fountain of blood.
They called my surgeon who rushed in looking not so thrilled and things took a turn for the slightly traumatic. In a series of very fast moves, he stuck the suction tube down my throat to pull the rest of the unbelievably giant clots out. (It seemed I had slowly been bleeding for days and it was all clotting in the spaces back there. It’s incredible how much crap you can store in your throat without realizing it, but it explains why I kept feeling like I needed to cough something up.) After all the vacuuming, he went back in with sticks of silver nitrate and that’s when I learned a new science lesson about chemical reactions.
Silver nitrate is a toxic caustic chemical that was used in the old days to cauterize open wounds. He used several long sticks with the chemical on the ends to cauterize a few different spots in my throat, managing to get enough of it on the skin around my mouth too that I’ve got little red burn marks days later. The feeling of getting multiple chemical burns in the back of your raw sore throat in the middle of the night before the Dilaudid and Ativan have hit you is not something anyone should ever experience. But it worked. He was satisfied that the bleeding was stopped, and left. He told me this happens in less than 2% of cases. I was one in a million, and I should be ok after this.
Oops, no one thought to give me an anti-nausea drug though! It didn’t take too long before I was vomiting more clots from my stomach, which irritated my fresh cauterizations and re-opened the vessels. More phone calls were made, it must have been about 6am at this point and my original surgical team was reassembled like the Avengers.
Maybe an hour or so later, I’m being rolled into the OR, still puking blood into a bucket until the moment they put the oxygen mask on me and put me out. The only solution left before bleeding to death was electrocauterization, the classic way to stem surgical bleeding and what was done in the original procedure. It is something that is only done under general anesthesia because I imagine the pain is incredible. It took about 15 minutes and I woke up a couple hours later very disoriented but not bleeding. Everyone in the recovery wing remembered me from the first time and felt horrible for me, even my anesthesiologist came to check on me and reassure me that I would be ok. I sleep the rest of the day.
The next few days I have to be very careful to limit my movement, no bending or straining or twisting. I’ve added an extra week or so on to my recovery period and I’m not thrilled.

Day 12...
My throat is all swollen again though the pain isn’t too horrible. I am back to square one as far as food goes and the thought of more milkshakes or smoothies or ice cream makes me want to cry. I’ve never been that big on sweet stuff and I’m dying for a grilled cheese or a salad or a taco, anything crunchy and textured and not sugary. I’m so paranoid about bleeding again that I can’t sleep. Both times it happened in the middle of the night while I was asleep, and I am convinced that sleep is now a death sentence.

Day 13...
I’m going nuts, I can’t stand it anymore. I don’t want to be in the house, I don’t want to eat applesauce, I don’t want to take meds, I am desperate to put clothes on and go to work and eat a veggie burger and drive my car and sleep on my side. To add a real bonus to all this, my cat died today. I have to try not to cry much so I don’t irritate or put strain on my throat. I am giving up all hope. This is officially the worst experience of my entire life and I regret ever thinking that it would be a good idea. I am defeated and hungry and sleepy and I'd happily trade all this for some simple strep throat right now.


See Part 1, Part 2, and Part 4 for the rest of the story.