My typical explaination of it all is that I had my face re-plumbed and my throat re-built similar to the Bionic Woman or the Million Dollar Man. (More on my new sound effects later.) Clearly, my explaination lacks specifics but does hit the high notes. The main reason for all of this... work... was to help me breathe properly through my nose for the first time in 39 years, to remove growths from my sinuses, and to help me stop snoring.
I was very nervous before going in for these procedures because any doctor that I spoke with about the procedure made their most professional "Oh Honey, you are so fucked" face and immediately launched into a discussion on pain. I have a friend who has had most of the surgeries mentioned above but he had them all separately and had complications. He, too, described the pain in detail.
I knew that these procedures were more about the long term gains so with that in mind I sucked it up, kissed my kids, set out about a million lists for my mom to take over my household duties and off Scott and I went.
I can easily summarize the last 10 days: painful with not enough drugs involved. I got to the point of counting the minutes in between pain meds. Which, I am pretty sure means that I was in pretty rough shape. The first 3 days are made worse by the fact that you are also dealing with the after affects of the general anestethic- which is nasty stuff.
What I do know for certain now is that I did not ask enough questions before my surgeries. I got caught up and intimidated in all the pain discussion and allowed that fear to disctract me from things that I really ought to have asked. (e.g. what are tonsils for and why am I volunteering to have mine removed without ever having had tonsilitis? what are reasonable and non-medicated options for pain control? Should I bother with non-medicated options at all? and can I have a large prescription for drugs please?) I ended up googling pictures of UPPP and tonsillectomies in the middle of the night at about day 5 trying to figure out if what I was experiencing was in any way reasonable and , if by the grace of any diety that cared, would it end sometime soon- without my death.
I know in the past I have cautioned against the use of internet medical information and reminded to always take what you find with a grain of salt. But, internets, I have to offer a heartfelt thank you to the wealth of tonsillectomy and UPPP patients who took the time to blog about their experiences and answered questions and offered remedies at places like ASK.com. It was their collective wisdom that helped me that night.
Here is my offering to the midnight googler (yes, it is so a word) on the subject of UPPP surgery:
- It hurts- BAD- for about 8 days and then it does get better, gradually. My mouth felt tight all over and I had some extreme pain-spots; where my tonsils used to be. I did not get a lot of sleep within the first 6 days. Pain level of about a 9 out of 10 for the first 6 days but improves from here on out with care. By day 10 it is a dull 4 or 5 out of 10 (what I would call a normal dry, tight and sore throat) and very manageable with normal Advil or Tylenol.
- Stay ahead of your pain and watch your meds. Take meds on time.
- The pain can radiate- this is helped by staying on top of your meds. I felt it in my throat, jaw and ears. I could tell when my meds were running low because it felt like I had a really bad toothache and earache at the same time as my throat being on fire. Ice packs, cold cloths, warm cloths and heating pads can help depending on your body.
- Your throat will be all white when you look, if you can. It is very distrubing to see and from what I can tell it is normal. These are scabs from your surgery. They feel better if you can keep them moist but the sooner they go away the sooner you will feel better. Do not try to scrape them off. I found gargling with warm and sometimes salty water helped. I didn't use salt for too long because it made my mouth feel extra tight and that hurt so I mostly just used warm/hot water very frequently. (every hour or so.)
- I also brushed my teeth a lot. I was getting sores at the sides of my tongue and on my lips. I felt that the teeth brushing helped keep my mouth moist but it also allowed me to gently agitate the sores and rub them without hurting. My teeth also started to feel fuzzy with the meds and not swallowing and such. To start I did not use toothpaste- I just used water but after a few days I used toothpaste and found the cooling sensation pleasant.
- There will be lots of information that says cold stuff will make your throat feel better. They are right about half of the time. The other half of the time cold stuff will hurt A LOT and warm to borderline hot stuff will feel better. I think that this a person to person thing. For me warm/hot helped.
- My body alternated between scalding hot and freezing cold. I took a lot of scalding hot showers to help loosen my muscles and generally make me feel better. I had a heating pad that I kept hot and kept along my body or along my chin and neckline.
- Eating was a real problem for me for the first 6-7 days. I consumed Ensure for basic nurishment but had trouble with the temperature. I started with cold and nearly passed out from the pain. At the end I was drink it at room temperature. I also ate jello but found that it gave me nothing for caloric return so I stopped. I drank a lot of water. I tried things like yogurt and ice cream but, again, the temperature was a problem as was the texture. The dairy caused me to be phlemmy and that didn't help or feel good.
- My body, brain, stomach and bowels were in a bit of a battle for control. My body was screaming in pain, my stomach was confused in its parallel messages of eat and don't eat, my brain said hurting! and eat the food it will help you feel better but my bowels had the final word in saying that food is not going to pass through- no matter what- until you stop taking meds so be mindful of what you eat. Don't hurt yourself trying to get your bowels to move. Take stool softeners and deal with this later. This gets better at about day 8- mostly because my meds ran out on day 7 and my body got back to normal pretty quick.
- You will make it and it doesn't last forever.
So that was the bottom half of my surgery- blunt force and slap stick direct. The top half was like British comedy for me- subtle and weird in a "I'm not sure if I am really getting it" kind of way. It was definately lesser on the pain scale than the throat- for which I am appreciative- but it was still present in a dull and steady 6 out of 10. I did not love the nose job part.
Scott found it very funny that my newly re-routed sinuses made all kinds of new and exciting sound effects. I snap, crackled and popped. I snorted and snorked. I sniffled and dripped. You could actually hear the fluid filling my newly accessable sinus cavities previously made unavailable by blockages, growths and bone. For a surgery that was supposed to help me stop snoring I think I just added tonal variety and breadth to my existing repitoire with random jagged bursts of sobbing when I woke up to find my mouth open and the newly scab covered and swollen spot where my uvula-used-to-live flapping around. For 39 years I have breathed through my mouth to sleep and it is a hard habit to break.
I was very stuffed up for the first 5-6 days and found if I tilted my head any more than 30degrees in any direction my sinuses and ears drained in distrubing ways. Sleeping, as I have previously mentioned, was tricky. I would prop myself upright and try to stay motionless. This was made easier when my father brought me a recliner chair from his house for the duration of my recovery.
I am now on day 10 and relatively, doing okay, I think. I am able to eat, cautiously and last night I slept for 7 hours straight. I can breathe clearly through my nose and my mouth is feeling better. My throat is still a 4 or 5 out of 10- but manageble now. I don't have a lot of energy yet but I have only just started eating so give me some time. I am still napping several times a day and not doing very much at all otherwise. My voice is weak but I can use my regular voice, if I have to. I have noticed no change in my voice but I am not speaking out loud a whole lot yet. It still feels better to whisper or to speak very quietly. Less vibration, I think. I cannot wear my glasses for any amount of time yet as the bridge of my nose is tender and any amount of pressure radiates through my face, ears and sinuses.
The cats are helping me by sleeping on me. Purr therapy is a wonderful thing. The kids are helping by being ultra gentle with me and allowing me a pass in parenting duties for a while. Although they rejoiced when I started carrying my knitting around with me a day or so ago because in their eyes it means that I am getting better. My mom has very generously come out to Virden for the past 9 days and has done everything on the list I gave her and then some. (Thanks Mom!) Scott has been filling my parenting shoes and has not been teasing me too much.
I have wonderful friends, colleagues and family who have been showering me with get well cards, wishes and gifts. It has made me feel well cared for and special. Although I may have to limit access and visiting time to the members of my Knitwit, knitting club, as those girls make me laugh too much and smile too hard and that still hurts a lot. ;) Thank you for that.
I am on the mend. I will be fine.
Mottos of the moment "Keep calm and carry on" and of course, my new favourite "Sleep with your mouth closed! You can breathe through your nose now dummy!"