Last Friday my just-turned-four-year-old son had surgery to get his tonsils and adenoids removed. Technically the procedure is called combined tonsillectomy / adenoidectomy, but it’s quite a mouthful to say (no pun intended).
Why did we opt for the surgery? The poor little guy has had giant tonsils for most of his life, not a reason in itself to remove them surgically according to most pediatricians. However, he’s been a recurring victim of sore throats (the dreaded tonsillitis), strep throats, halitosis (bad breath), poor appetite due to back-of-the-mouth obstruction, and drum roll… sleep apnea. Large tonsils can indeed obstruct the airway and deprive a child of much needed sleep. The consequences of sleep apnea in children are numerous:
- Crankiness, due to lack of sleep (imagine sleeping four hours a night, every night…)
- Overall fatigue and lack of energy
- Poor concentration, ADHD
When my son started complaining EVERY morning after he got up that he was “tired”, I knew I had to do something to help him regain a healthy and active childhood. Even though today tonsillectomies happen a lot less often than 30 years ago, it was easy to get our health insurance plan to approve the surgery, due to my son’s poor physical state.
Now, my advice to all parents out there… Whoever tells you that tonsil / adenoid surgery is a piece of cake is either not a parent, or hasn’t had that surgery performed on them (and if they do, they just don’t remember it). Surgery IS surgery, and it comes with plenty of risks. There’s nothing reassuring in having to sign papers minutes before the procedure allowing the medical staff to perform transfusion if necessary, and indicating that your child doesn’t have an “advanced directive”. It only takes 30 to 45 minutes to perform this surgery, but that will feel like the longest 30 minutes of your life.
As for the recovery part, it’s no piece of cake (lots of popsicles, though!). As a parent, it’s physically and emotionally draining to see your own child in pain, and you know they’re in pain when they have a prescription for Tylenol with codeine. The two main things to watch out for are bleeding and dehydration. My son suffered from so much swelling in his mouth and throat that he refused to swallow anything by the day after the surgery. He ended up being admitted in the hospital for more treatment. He now feels a little better every day and I know that in a few weeks, he’ll have completely recovered, but in the meantime, it’s baby steps.
Now, am I hoping for a miracle cure with this surgery for all sleep apnea side-effects I mentioned above? You bet, at least for most of them! The proof will be in the pudding, and we’re stocked up on that too!
If your child has had tonsil and/or adenoid surgery, I’d love to hear from you.
If you enjoyed reading this post and would like to receive future postings, please enter your email address and click the Sign Up button at the top right of this page. Thank you for reading!