MTV True Life: I'm a grown up that just got her tonsils removed. AMA.

I’ve been dealing with repeated bouts of strep/tonsillitis/mono/sinus infections and such for my whole life. No matter what the illness, even if it isn’t a throat infection, my already unusually large tonsils always swell up to a very painful size during even a simple cold. It’s been tough to find a doctor willing to remove them from a 26-year old, (when I was a kid it was considered an unnecessary procedure and believed that I would grow out of the infections eventually, but it only got worse) but once I found him, everything happened very fast.

In my days of preparing myself for the procedure I found it very helpful to read blogs from people who went through it and detailed their experiences so i thought I'd write about my own ordeal as it happens. Maybe it'll help someone! (Oh and it may be notable to add that my adenoids were also removed, though they weren't my primary problem and i'm still not sure what adenoids even are).

I had to be at the hospital at 6:30am for an 8:30 operation. For those first 2 hours I mostly sat around hooked to an IV for a saline drip, feeling anxious and assuring many people that I had not eaten. The anesthesiologist came and talked to me, a few nurses came and talked to me, all of whom had me repeat my name, date of birth, and what I was getting done. I feel like that hospital must have done the wrong surgery on the wrong person once and now they’re super paranoid. Then my surgeon showed up and repeated his spiel that I’ve heard several times already about how much pain I had to look forward to. Thanks man, very reassuring!

Really stoked to get my tonsils out today 👍

A photo posted by Heather Henderson (@heatherocity) on

Eventually I got something extra special shot into my IV that felt ice cold in my veins but quickly made me feel reallllly nice like I was peacefully melting into a puddle of hot gooey chocolate. They rolled me into the OR, had me breathe from an oxygen mask for a minute, and that’s the last I remember.

Next thing I know, I’m half conscious and moaning the number seven at someone. They wanted to know my pain level out of 10, I couldn’t open my eyes yet because the lights were too bright but I immediately wanted to cry. Seven was the first thought in my mind. My ears hurt so bad!

My doctor had mentioned beforehand that the nerves in your ears and throat are all connected and referred pain in the ears is common, but I didn’t anticipate it to be that intense and immediate. My IV got super cold and a minute later I felt much better. Thanks Dilaudid!

They had me lay around for a while waking up slowly before they let me get dressed and brought my parents in to see me. I ate a popsicle and some crushed ice and felt pretty out of it, but ok. Eventually I was able to leave with a big bag of prescriptions and I was carted off back to my parents house where I immediately fell asleep.

The first day was a blur of being really really tired and weak. I munched on crushed ice and had a few popsicles and even managed a small bit of milkshake. I was in very little pain and swallowing felt awkward but didn’t really hurt. The IV fluids I had in the hospital kept me pretty well hydrated and my skin was looking quite fabulous and plump, especially with a humidifier going full speed next to my bed. (This is the one I got btw if you're in the market. It's pretty good!)

Cats LOVE the humidifier

Cats LOVE the humidifier

I ended up with some liquid painkillers and antibiotics (the same dreaded pink amoxicillin goo that haunts my childhood memories), along with some anti-nausea drugs. My mom woke me up every 4 hours throughout the day and night to take hydrocodone and make sure i had some ice or water.

I didn’t sleep so well during the night because having to stay propped up isn’t too comfy, plus all the drugs made me a little restless. But after all the horror stories I’d heard about the pain and misery of recovery, I felt like I’d dodged a bullet. Things weren’t so bad at all!

DAY 2: The Beginning

On day 2 I feel a bit more aware, but time is still passing strangely. Every time I’m due for a dose of something I’m like “wait, didn’t I just take some like half an hour ago?” but it’s been 4 or 6 hours. I’m not even really sleeping, just zoning in and out.

The pain is a tiny bit worse today, mostly my tongue which feels swollen and tender like I may have chewed on it in the night. My throat feels more tight and swollen too and it’s a bit tougher to swallow. My ears feel fine now though.


I started getting pretty itchy from all the hydrocodone but kept taking it to make sure I stay out of pain. It worked so well and I was getting very hungry from having nothing in my stomach but popsicles and some kefir (which is a fermented drink similar to yogurt). I decided soft overcooked ramen noodles might be ok. After a handful of very small well-chewed bites I started feeling incredible pain. All over my mouth. It got worse pretty fast even after some ice and cold water. Decided to hit my emergency bottle of dilaudid that they gave me in case the hydrocodone wasn't enough. I got in bed with ice bags packed around my neck and slept for about 2 hours, waking up in more pain. Lesson learned: do not try to eat food too soon!!! I thought I was feeling up for it, but my body fought back real hard.

The only positive is that I have not had any bleeding yet. All the painkillers are making me feel funky, bouncing between twitchy restlessness where I’m wandering around the house burning off nervous energy and short bursts of dead sleep. Since I'm being medicated every 4 hours I'm not on any real sleep cycle, just passing out whenever the drugs hit me then waking up after an hour then falling back's weird. I prepared myself with lots of books to read and shows to watch but I'm unable to focus on anything for too long. Even writing this has been a struggle.

I was told recovery typically can take 10-14 days and it gets worse before it gets better. I'll keep notes and post another update in a few days and see where I'm at with everything!

See Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4 for the rest of the story.