My daughter just had tonsil, adenoid, and turbinate surgery. We counted down to the surgery date for 2 months, and as much as I thought I was prepared … I found out a mere 24 hours post-op that I wasn’t.
Piper, age 9, has always been healthy. She is extremely active and a ball of life. This fall, on separate occasions that happened within a few weeks of each other, teachers and friends mentioned Piper being a mouth-breather. I know that she has a nasal-y voice, but it’s always been that way – so I just c
ounted it as part of what made her cute. She’s always snored. Her dad snores louder than a freight train, so that was easy to pass off. Finally, I overheard her dance teacher tell Piper to “keep her mouth closed.” I got onto her after class about talking. She quickly let me know that she wasn’t talking, she literally had her mouth open … so she could breathe!
Upon further questioning, it became apparent that for the majority of the time and for most of her life, she hasn’t been able to breathe through her nose. Wow … what a revelation. I immediately asked for recommendations for an ENT via Facebook, and several people mentioned the same doctor. I wasted no time and called for an appointment.
At our initial appointment, the doctor did a scope to check the size of Piper’s turbinates. They were much larger than normal, so we were prescribed a nasal spray to see if this would help. We had a 6 week follow-up appointment and it was then that surgery was recommended: tonsil, adenoid, and turbinate surgery.
We were told that for the first 7 days, Piper would need to be out of school. For days 8-14, she would not be able to do any physical activity. Piper is on a competition dance team and she is right smack dab in the middle of her active season. Trying to find 2 weeks that she could sit out was a bit of a scheduling nightmare. (Yes, I completely realize that I’m working around a dance schedule to find time for a surgery, but in our house – that’s how it rolls.)
As luck would have it, it worked out that Piper could do a huge competition weekend, then have her surgery on the Tuesday following. She would miss that week of school and the next week was Spring Break! Perfect!
In the days leading up to surgery, she began to have some questions.
1. Will I have an IV? I scoured the internet and found that for this surgery and with children, most often the kids are put to sleep with gas and then the IV is inserted (after they are asleep). This came true in our case. (And, no, it doesn’t hurt when they take it out.)
2. Can I take something with me into surgery? Piper was at a hospital, not a surgical center – not sure if that makes a difference or not, but Piper was allowed to take her favorite blanket and keep it with her the entire time. That thing is her lifeline. She is instantly comforted when it is near.
Day 1 – Surgery Day: The surgery took approximately 1 hour. Only 1 of us was able to go back with Piper to get her ready. I asked three different times for them to get Don and send him back, but that didn’t happen. If we had it to do again, I would be more firm that both parents go back. After surgery, two of us were able to visit Piper in the recovery room. My son, Avery, was quite concerned about Piper, so he and I went back. Once she was awake, the nurses had Avery assist with feeding her popsicle. Our doctor suggests that all children stay in recovery for 2 hours before being released to go home.
After we got home, Piper was very alert and chatty. Whispery-chatty, but certainly happy. She napped a bit on and off, but was happy just watching TV and hanging out. Initially, she could breathe through her nose perfectly, but as it began to swell – she wasn’t able to any longer.
Pain was completely under control for approximately 16 hours …. until 2:00 AM. When I gave her her pain meds at 2:00 AM, she nearly came unglued. She literally jumped from her seat. The pain had most definitely set in and the IV meds were gone.
Day 2 – Pain was certainly at a much higher level today. We gave the oral pain medication around the clock every 4 hours. Because of the turbinate surgery, we had Piper stay in the recliner. She napped on and off for the majority of this time. She would sip on ice water and ate about 1/4 of a popsicle.
Day 3 – This day was much like Day 2. She was awake a bit more, but pretty much a carbon copy. We still kept the oral pain medication going every 4 hours around the clock. On this day, some nasal drainage began. It wasn’t so significant that she was forced to wear the nose/gauze contraption, but enough that she went through an entire box of tissues. Piper managed to eat about 1/2 a popsicle and about 1/2 a cup of ice water on Day 3. A bad mouth odor set in today. (I was warned of this by another mom.) I had suggested that Piper swish out her mouth with water and just run a toothbrush over her braces. While swishing with water, Piper fainted. It was an extremely scary moment. I debated on taking her to the ER, but opted to first call the doctor-on-call. The doctor felt that she was just weak from her lack of food and was showing the signs of dehydration. We gave her Gatorade to bring her blood sugar level up. The stress that this brought to her body made for a long night’s sleep.
Day 4 – Piper was still very tired today. I spread her pain medications out to every 6 hours instead of every 4 hours after she complained that it tasted terrible and just overall made her feel bad. Later on day 4, we stopped the pain medicine. Piper said she didn’t need it any more. This day was a full day of rest and trying to promote a lot of liquids to fight off dehydration. She had periods of hot flashes that seemed to be eased with a wet washcloth on her head. The very tip of Piper’s nose is bruised from the turbinate surgery and she has a lot of clear drainage. The doctor said that she shouldn’t blow her nose, and she complains that the contraption that hooks behind her ears to hold the gauze on is aggravating. With that, she prefers to just wipe with a tissue. She says that her nose isn’t sore at all. If your child goes this route, be prepared … she went through about a box per day.
Day 5 – We focused a lot on day 5 on eating to try and build strength. Piper was still very weak and her appetite was non-existent. In the evening, she perked up quite a bit and actually sat up on the couch and played cards. It was nice to see a sweet smile and see her playing. She took no pain medication at all on day 5. The mouth odor was really bad and in looking in her throat, you could see that the wounds were healing.
Day 6 – Piper still isn’t eating – at all, to be completely honest. It was a somewhat yucky day outside, but we thought that it might do Piper a bit of good to get out of the house. We decided to take her to the movie. Her dad carried her in and out. She enjoyed the movie and stayed awake the entire time (a feat that she seldom meets when she’s healthy). Once we were home, she managed a board game at the kitchen table and drank about 1/3 of a slushie from Sonic.
Day 7 – We were back at the doctor’s office for a 9:00 AM post-op appointment. We got some good news and some bad news. Good news: Everything is healing perfectly. Bad news: She’s lost 11.4 pounds. For Piper, that’s roughly 20% of her body weight. Ugh. We were charged with getting her to eat. She had also developed a cough and were given the freedom to treat her with an OTC medication – as long as it didn’t contain Ibuprofen. As for her nose/drainage, it seems to be less. Piper says that she still can’t breathe through her nose because it’s swollen on the inside, but she’s not in pain.
Day 8 – Still no food. We’ve finally had to warn Piper that if she doesn’t begin to eat, she won’t be able to return to dance next week. Cue the waterworks. After much begging, she did eat 1/2 cup of an Oreo McFlurrie. Today, I’m happy for that – we’ll worry about nutrition tomorrow. (PS – This was the day that Piper technically should have returned to school. There’s no way that could have happened.)
Day 9 – On this day, we turned a corner. Piper knew that she had to eat in order to return to dance. For her, that’s all the motivation she needed. I honestly think that she just needed to get something in her stomach in order to trigger the urge/need to eat again. At the end of the day, she had eaten 2 pieces of french toast, about 1/4 cup of yogurt, and a bowl of pasta with alfredo sauce. She also drank 32 oz of Gatorade at the recommendation of a pediatrician friend.
Day 10 – This is the first day that I think Piper could have realistically returned to school. (We are on Spring Break!) She ate pretty regularly all day. Still moderately soft foods, but she was definitely more her “old” self. We, again, made sure that she drank all 32 oz of Gatorade. (For the record, my friend said to use “real” Gatorade for this purpose, not G2.) We went out for dinner and she felt like playing with friends. I weighed her and she had not gained any weight back, but she hadn’t lost any additional weight either — so I was pleased. She is able to slightly breathe through her nose. I’m hoping for this portion of her recovery to speed up!