Recovery day 6 was Monday, February 20, 2017.
Sunday night was the worst pain so far. I had a right earache that radiated into my jaw and all the lymph glands in the right side of my neck. My tongue felt like it was on fire and three times its normal size. When I tried to swallow the pain was intense and deeper in my throat felt like there were sharp thing scrapping up against the inside walls. The Oxycodone and Ibuprofen weren’t touching the pain. I couldn’t swallow my own saliva and surely couldn’t swallow applesauce with crushed up meds in it.
I had forgotten that it was a holiday, President’s Day, and the office’s were closed for the holiday. I tried calling my ENT office, the ENT Surgery Center and the on call Dr. I waited an hour and started to get nervous. When no one returned my call we headed to our local ER. Being a respiratory therapist I knew that not being able to swallow and drooling is not a good sign.
We got to the ER just before 8 am. They ushered me right into a room where I then had to wait for what seemed like and hour for the doctor to see me. By this time I was in excruciating pain. It had been almost 6 hours since I had taken any pain meds because I couldn’t swallow. All I wanted to do was cry, but I couldn’t because I knew it would be even more painful, so I was holding it in. I could barely talk.
The doctor finally came in to see me. He asked me to open my mouth. Trying to do this was like trying to open a jaw that is wired shut. My jaw was swollen and stiff and felt like every bone in my face was broken. He needed my mouth open wider and stuck a tongue depressor in to push it open. I almost punched him for what happened next felt like he took the tongue depressor and scraped the surgical site where my tonsil used to be! I pulled away from him the best that I could, felling trapped on the ER bed with the side rails up. The tears just ran down my face both from the pain and the frustration.
This guy knows I just had a tonsillectomy, I’m in extreme pain, I’ve been in constant pain for 6 days…WTF would he do that to me for!!!!
The doctor then says he’s going to send my for a CT scan with contrast to make sure there isn’t a blockage like an abscess or blood clot in my throat. I asked him about Thrush. That is what I thought the white dots and coated tongue were. He never seemed to address that and didn’t seem too concerned about it. He sent in the nurse to put an IV line in and hooked me up to fluids and pain meds.
I had difficulty breathing while lying down and had to be propped up. If I was not propped up it felt like my airway was being blocked. Having the CT was difficult because you have to be flat on your back on a hard board. The machine tells you not to swallow, moves around you a few times and then tells you to swallow. I had to force through the pain to swallow. The contrast goes through the IV and curses through your veins with a weird warmth that also makes you feel like you are peeing, even though you’re not.
With the CT done I was back in the room and getting more pain meds. It was starting to take the edge off and I was in and out of sleep. The doctor came back in at some point and told us that the CT scan didn’t show any type of blockage, but did show a considerable amount of swelling. He also thought I could be starting with a bacterial infection. They started Decadron, a steroid, an antibiotic, and more pain meds through the IV.
Sometime around noon the doctor came back in to see if all the IV meds were helping. I was still in pain. The meds were just taking the edge off and letting me catch 15-20 minute naps. I still couldn’t swallow and had to spit into a tissue. I was spitting out thick yellowish gunk. He decided he wanted to admit me for at least overnight or up to two days for IV meds and fluids. The only catch was he wanted me admitted to a different hospital because they didn’t have an ENT there. I agreed and they set up an ambulance ride to the other hospital.
My wife went home to take care of the dogs. She had also spoke with my mother who is a retired nurse and lives in Florida. The decision was made that my mother would hop a plane and be here tonight to help out. So my wife needed to clean the house, make up the guest room, go shopping, and then come to see me before picking up my mother at the airport.
I arrived to the second hospital thinking that I was a direct admit and would just go to my room, get some good meds and go to sleep. Think again! I had to go through the ER! I had to go through the whole process of being checked in, telling “my story”, having vitals checked, and then sit in the entry hall of the ER on an gurney packed in like sardines waiting until our number came up to be seen! I still couldn’t swallow and was spitting into tissues.
They parked an older lady next to me. My guess would be that she had dementia. She thought that I was her daughter and kept try to reach for me and ask me questions. At one point she said,
“Gloria, what’s wrong with you? You look terrible!”
I work in health care and normally would have consoled her, talked to her, tried to help her calm down. But I couldn’t find one ounce of compassion in me. For 6 days straight I had been in constant pain with no relief, loopy from the Oxycodone, nauseated, constipated, and exhausted. All I wanted was a quite room and to be knocked out. A nurse came by when this woman was trying to get my attention and I said to the nurse,
“I don’t know her, she thinks I’m someone else.”
I turned and faced the other way where I was right up against another elderly lady who was moaning under her breath. At least she had her son with her to keep her distracted from me. They moved the dementia lady or she was brought into a private room. Things got calm for a moment and I thought that I would have some peace for a moment.
Never think too soon. The ER doors swung open, two male cops and one female came in with a young guy who looked intoxicated. They sat him in a chair directly across from me. As soon as his ass hit the chair he slouched down with his legs and arms out to the sides and started chanting satanic crap about the devil and god. His body was like mush in the chair, but his voice was loud and he frothed a bit at the mouth as he talked faster and faster. The cops and the nurses asked him numerous times to be quite. He would snap out of it for a nanosecond, say he was sorry, and then start up again. At one point he cried out,
“Help me! Why wont anyone help me? Lucifer has taken over my body, don’t let him!”
And then he went right back into his chants. No one would go near him and just let him carry on. As long as he didn’t try to get out of the chair the cops stayed away from him. I heard one nurse on the phone with someone saying that it was like the exorcist and no one wanted to take his vitals.
I had taken all that I could handle and flagged down a nurse. With tears in my eyes I said in the most stern voice I could muster,
“I came in from another hospital by ambulance and thought I was supposed to be a direct admit. I am in sever pain and it has been hours since my last pain med. I’ve ben sitting in an ER since 7:30 this morning. I can’t take this anymore!”
She said that there were no direct admits, but she would see what she could do. About 20-30 minutes later I finally was being brought into a private room in the ER. It took another 30 minutes before the Nurse Practitioner came in to see me. I told her I was in pain and needed something. She said she didn’t even know anything about me yet and had to get some information. I told her my story, she looked in my throat and finally got me more fluids, pain meds and steroids. She was going to have the ER doc come in to see me. Another 30-40 minutes later the doctor came in and it was a repeat of the NP, tell her my story, look in my throat. She went out to the nurses desk were the two of them consulted and then came back in and told me they were going to call someone from the ENT team to come see me.
My wife arrived before the ENT. I just wanted to cry, but the pain was still to intense and would be worse if I cried. The ENT finally came in sometime just before 9 pm. She couldn’t tell me what the white dots were that had been all over my mouth because by this time they had all popped and were now red dots. She did explain that a tonsillectomy for an adult is a very traumatic operation and that I did have a lot of swelling from the trauma, but the scab looked somewhat normal and was starting to slough. She said that she could admit me for IV fluids and pain control. At this point I had been in the ER for 14 hours. My body ached all over and I just wanted to be in my own bed. She agreed that I could go home if I could drink a cup of ice water and my wife and mother promised to bring me back if it got any worse. It took me 30 minutes, but I got down that ice water.
I was discharged around 11:15 pm and we still had to go to the pharmacy for meds before going home. It as after midnight by the time we got home. I was so exhausted and on enough pain meds that I was able to sleep for 4 hours.