This blog post is purely informative for parents who have children who will be receiving this procedure or even looking into it. During my son’s recovery it was extremely hard to find parent and child experiences for me to relate to. I needed something to help me understand what to expect and look out for. I hope this post helps out anyone who is searching for information.
My son who is about to turn 3 has alway had a “snore” of some sort ever since I can remember. When he slept it seemed that his snore interrupted his breathing and he would stop breathing at times for a short moment, then gasp for air and continue snoring. Little did I know, that it was sleep apnea. He also was just a heavy breather in every day normal circumstances. When I really noticed it was when he was concentrating on something like say, watching a movie or coloring. His mouth would be open and I could hear some sort of blockage through his nose. During the summer of 2010 during a visit to see family, my aunt who is a nurse noticed it first hand and told me I definitely need to get him seen for his adenoids. Her grandson had the same problem and received an adenoidectomy and the results were great! I felt a little bad that I hadn’t had him seen yet but when I read up on it before, it said that many times the adenoids shrink and it no longer stays a problem.
I took my son to see an ear nose and throat doctor and sure enough his adenoids were very swollen, along with his tonsils. This explained why he went through bouts of chronic ear infections. The doctors recommendation was to have both the adenoids and tonsils extracted. They make it seem like such an easy procedure and as easy of a recovery. Well this obviously varies from child to child and each specific case but what we didn’t know was what a long recovery it would be!
The day we showed up at the surgery center we were not aware of the difficult recovery our son may go through but by the time we left, we knew it may be rough. Every nurse or doctor who came in contact with our chart would make a statement about the tonsilectomy and then make a face as if to say “ooh that’s going to be a rough recovery!” I finally said something to the last nurse we saw. I told her she was probably the 4th nurse to make some sort of comment in regards to the difficult recovery and could she explain this. She let us know that when the scabs start to come off around day 4 or 5 post op, that it becomes very painful. She said some adult patients have compared the pain to having coffee grinds in their throat or even glass. Needless to say, I was terrified. I made sure I had taken our son out of daycare for a whole week so he could stay home so I was comforted at the fact that he would be with me the whole time.
The surgery lasted only 30 minutes and seemed to go smoothly. I went back to see him when they came and got me and he was crying and reaching for me very aggressively. No one warned me that this was very common when a toddler wakes up from anesthesia. He was so disoriented. They put him on my lap and in my arms but then he began trying to rip the tape off his foot in which a pulse detector was being held in place. He was all over the place just crying! They said they needed to give him his dose of pain meds and began forcing some sort of liquid down his throat. I knew it was what needed to be done but it was the hardest thing in the world to watch. About 5 minutes later he calmed down and fell asleep in my arms. He would wake up about every 15 minutes and cry and become aggressive again, then fall back asleep. This went on for an hour until we were released.
I have to say the first day was almost as if he didn’t have surgery once we were home. He laid on the couch snuggled up watching movies, in and out of sleep. We had to be sure that if he was sleeping, to wake him every 30 minutes for the first 3 hours of being home, just to make sure he was conscious. After he rested for a couple of hours at home he got up and sucked on a popsicle and drank a lot of ice cold juice. He willingly took the first dose of medicine which was 3 mil. of Hydrocodone (Lortab) but you could tell it was not pleasant. We were lucky he didn’t spit it out. I had to keep telling him to swallow it and finally he did. I have read that the Lortab stings the throat and most kids refuse to take it. This was the case for our son. That first dose was the only one he took from the dropper. The rest of the week, he was administered the pain meds through his juice. We dropped the medicine in his juice every 4 hours for the first couple of days and it worked like a charm. We just had to make sure he drank it all almost immediately so that it didn’t sit and he didn’t get it all.
He slept well the first night and I began to think that my son must really be one of the lucky ones. The next day, as long as he was on his meds which we stayed on top of, he was normal. We woke him up in the night after every 4 hours just to give him his meds. I had to stop him from running and jumping around so much but he seemed like surgery never happened. We got an all fruit smoothy and just hung out at home all day. I remember the 2nd night being slightly rougher because he would wake up and his throat would be dry, before the medicine was supposed to be given. So as long as he had something to wet his throat, he was comfortable, along with his meds every 4 hours. He ate really well the first 3 days, he had applesauce, smoothies, mashed potatoes, lots of soup, and juice. We kept him off milk for about 3-4 days.
By day 3 I could tell we were about to turn a corner and things were going to get rough. I was hoping we could wean him off the meds a little because he hadn’t had a bowel movement in 3-4 days and I knew this was due to the Lortab medication. So I thought I could wait 6 hours to give him his medicine but he made sure to let me know that he was uncomfortable before that and we didn’t make it to 6 hours. Every time he woke up from a nap or sleep at night, he was extremely uncomfortable. By day 4 he was fine during the day but any time he was asleep, once he woke up, he was in pain. We were still giving his pain meds every 4 hours.
I was concerned about his constipation so we made sure to give him some soft pears, and some applesauce. He finally had a bowel movement on day 5. By day 5 we were definitely hit with an unexpected rough patch. He was in a lot of pain and the meds only seemed to last around 3 hours and couldn’t manage his pain the full 4. In the middle of the night he would ask for ice and he’d suck on some ice to cool his throat. We got very little sleep and he was up a lot. At this point I called the nurse to ask if we could give him his pain meds any sooner than every 4 hours but she didn’t advise it. She told me this would only last a few days and that the scabs were coming off.
I was warned that he would have pretty bad breath at this point when the scabs begin to come off. I noticed some bad breath but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I heard it would be. Day 5 and 6 I would say were the worst days. His pain was high, he cried a lot asking for medicine. His mouth was almost always attached to a cup of iced juice and he was very irritable. I would say to keep your child home at least a week with you. Some might need more time home! Day 5 and 6 my son didn’t want to eat much. Everything hurt so we stuck to warm soup, and anything soft he would take. If your child will only eat one thing for a day or two, just let them, as long as they are eating something.
By day 7 we noticed a big change. He was happier, sleeping longer and didn’t need his pain meds much or at all. He was slowly starting to come back to his old self. The one thing I could tell was that when he swallowed it did seem uncomfortable but he never complained. I told myself I would keep him off the meds unless he complained of pain but he never did after that 7th day. Including the weekend we had him home for 7 days. I wasn’t sure if I was going to let him go back to daycare that 8th day but when we woke up in the morning he was all smiles, and normal seeming and asked me if he could go to daycare. I took him and stayed on call all day and of course called a couple of times only to find out that he was doing great! I warned his daycare not to let him get too rambunctious and I packed him a special lunch so he wouldn’t eat anything that irritated his throat.
Well here we are about a month out of surgery and I can honestly say it was the best decision!! He sleeps better, and breathes better! I can’t even hear him breathing now! Some nights I’ll check on him and walk up really close just to make sure he’s breathing! It’s made such a difference and I know it’s so much easier for him to breathe.
My advice to all parents is before you go into this procedure, know as much as you can about the recovery. Know what to expect and be prepared for the rough road you may have. Don’t be frightened, just be prepared. We had great doctors and nurses and that was a great beginning to our experience, but my biggest concern was keeping my child be as comfortable as possible. They need their mommy or daddy during the rough 5-7 days. Take at least a full week off of work!
My experience is not everyone’s experience so feel free to post yours here and share with others what you think they should look out for! I just wanted this post to be informative and a place where you feel comforted and can relate to someone who is also going through it. Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!