Tonsillectomy Recovery Part IV: The End is In Sight

Catch up with Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for the full story.

Day 14-16…
A blur of pain, frustration, anxiety, and sleeplessness. I had planned to be off the narcotics by now and starting to return to my normal life. Instead i’m still barely functioning, barely eating, too nervous and restless to sleep, but too weak and tired and dizzy to get out of bed and do anything.

Day 17…
The pain is a little less intense and I decide to start weaning off the drugs because I can’t stand the side effects anymore. I want to sleep. I’m able to eat more real food today, a peach, some ravioli, and some soft corn tortillas with avocado. It’s so nice to be able to eat even though it hurts a lot. I started to sub the hydrocodone for regular tylenol. I slept like the dead that night, only waking up a few times to drink water because I can’t keep my mouth closed while I sleep.

Day 18…
After several hours of actual deep sleep with dreams (I haven’t had dreams since this whole thing began!) I feel significantly better today. More aware and awake, still exhausted but not so fuzzy with all the drugs in my system. The downside of course is that I’m getting new pain. My throat now really only hurts when I try to eat or when I drink anything that isn’t ice water. But my left ear and the left side of my jaw are suddenly killing me, so much that Tylenol doesn’t cut it and I have to take more hydrocodone than I would have liked.
I feel pretty nauseated, probably because my stomach isn’t used to accepting food. I looked at my throat in the mirror and I still have white scabs on the left side where I was re-cauterized, and my uvula is still incredibly swollen. I still have another 4-5 days before I am considered to be out of the danger zone for more bleeding. My healing countdown got reset on day 12 with the second surgery and the highest risk is around 6-8 days afterwards when the scabs begin to fall off. After 10 days you’re generally thought to be safe, although my big bleed happened after 12 days so I am wary of that number.

Day 19…
Today I finally stopped taking the narcotics and am only doing regular tylenol now. The pain is excruciating when i yawn but otherwise it’s not too bad. Coming off the drugs comes with its own set of side effects and I feel pretty funky--shaky and nauseated. But I’m finally feeling like i’m on my way to putting this all behind me and getting back to my life.

Day 20…
I woke up in a lot of pain again out of nowhere. Obviously I’m not ready to stop the drugs completely yet, because Tylenol is not enough to conquer this. My throat isn't too bad, mostly it's my jaw, tongue, and ear. It feels like a really bad ear infection but it comes and goes randomly.

Day 21…
Today I left the house! I went to see my surgeon for a followup evaluation and he said everything looks good! I still have a little scab but most of it is gone and healing up well. I should be out of danger for any further bleeding but just to be sure I am not allowed to eat anything crunchy or fried or sharp or too rough for another 10 days. He said the pain should ease up a lot more in the next few days and I will start to feel like a normal person by next week!
I managed to get out and about a little to hit the grocery store and go get a milkshake, it felt strange to be out in the world again. It was weirdly exhausting too, I feel pretty weak and it doesn’t help that it’s been 90+ degrees with serious humidity for the last several days. Once I’m eating and sleeping normally I’m sure I will feel better.

Day 22…
Exhausted from not being able to sleep much still but I haven’t taken any painkillers other than regular Tylenol all day. It only hurts when I yawn or swallow but it’s down to a tolerable level like the scratchy swollen feeling when you have a bad cold. Everything is still kind of swollen and I can’t seem to keep my mouth closed when I’m asleep and eating pineapple is a bad idea and I nearly choked to death trying to eat a bit of salad...but I’m getting there! I drank a little coffee for the first time in 3 weeks! I’m gonna move back to my house this weekend and get back to work on Monday. The month from hell is mostly over!

In Conclusion...
This will be the last post about my tonsil surgery. I hope it was sort of helpful for anyone looking for firsthand information.
My experience was obviously extremely unusual and shouldn’t terrify you too much if you’re preparing to undergo a tonsillectomy, but just know what is possible. According to my surgeon, less than 2% of people have post-surgical bleeding and only about 1 in 10,000 people need to have a second surgery to stop the bleeding. I am a statistical anomaly. I was the first person he had to fix twice.
Even without the extra horrors I experienced, it is an extremely painful and miserable time but most people would be completely fine by now. As long as you are prepared with plenty of ice and soft foods and painkillers and entertainment and a humidifier and someone to take care of you, it shouldn’t be nearly as bad or traumatic as what I went through. Good luck to anyone who is preparing to embark on this journey, and thanks to everyone who supported me and sent me nice messages while I recovered!