Tonsillectomy: What happened and our first week of recovery

We are still alive! It has been one week since the boys’ surgeries…one very LONG week.

Last Tuesday was probably one of the most terrifying days of my life. I mentioned on FB that Benji had some post-op bleeding but here is what happened. (This story is a little gruesome. Beware).

We got back home from the morning surgery at 11:30am. Both boys did really well. It was pretty funny when they got Versed–the chill-out meds–to make them sleepy. Probably the most memorable moment was when Micah said, “Daddy, where’s my pinky?” while he was examining his own hand. Hilarious!

Micah had a hard time when they took Benji back for his surgery. He cried a a lot and basically threw a temper tantrum for 40 minutes. He missed Benji, Benji got to ride on the cool bed with wheels, he did NOT want to wear the “cool” tiger gown, and he was hungry and thirsty gosh-darn-it! All that made a made a mad little three year old.

Both boys woke up from surgery pretty well. Benji did better than Micah–Micah HATED the IV in his wrist (it was all bandaged up like a boxing glove) and cried for the entire hour in recovery that he wanted it OFF!! Yeah, those two hours in recovery were long.

Like I said earlier, we got home around 11:30am and the boys wanted to eat and drink! YEA! They had ice-cream (as promised!), popsicles, scrambled eggs, and a bit of banana while they watched a movie on the couch. The pain meds from surgery were hanging on really well and were keeping everything at bay. We thought, this is great! They are doing really well–we didn’t even think they would eat a bite for weeks!

We put them down for a nap around 12:30pm and ate some lunch ourselves. We heard a lot of coughing over the baby monitor during their nap but that is pretty normal, according to the doctors.

We heard Benji crying at 2:30 and when we went in to check on him, I noticed a trail of dried blood coming from his mouth and blood coming out his nose. His pillow and blankets had some blood on them too. I was a little worried at this point but wasn’t panicked because I knew that a little bleeding after a tonsillectomy wasn’t abnormal and that a little ice water would usually help stop it.

Well, at this point, Benji was NOT interested in drinking. We had to pull out the drill sergeant voice to get him to drink anything. I remembered that we were supposed to try and put ice packs on his neck to help reduce the bleeding too–yeah, have you ever tried to put ice packs on a 3 year old? They don’t like it. At all. Meanwhile, we had a washcloth for Benji to spit in–his saliva continued to get brighter and brighter red.

I called the ENT, trying to stay calm. I got an answering machine. I was mad at this point. I needed to talk to someone–NOW! I called our pediatrician, knowing that I could get ahold of a nurse right away. The nurse was wonderful and while I waited on hold, she called the ENT and told them to call me back within 5 minutes, which they thankfully did. Frustratingly, the doctor who did the surgery was still IN surgery and the other doctor was with patients. So, I had to wait for a call back. And then, when she DID call back, I got disconnected! AH! I am SO frustrated at this point and that washcloth is getting redder and redder. FINALLY, the nurse called back and said that we could try to see if it would stop at home (at that moment, the bleeding seemed like it was reducing) but she recommended that we go the ER.

Aaron and I deliberated for about 2 minutes–then the bleeding started in earnest again. We got the boys dressed, grabbed some pull-ups, blankets, toys, and water cup (after all, Micah still needed to keep drinking!) Aaron–so good in a crisis–packed the laptop, cord, dvd’s, and the boys’ medication (which I forgot about).

Both boys were so pale in the back seat as we drove the 15 minutes to the ER. Benji was whimpering a little bit off and on and spitting into his washcloth. We drove into the ER parking lot and he started crying in earnest. And then I heard the sound every mother fears–her child getting sick. As Aaron pulled into the parking space, I turned around to look at Benji and saw blood pouring out of is mouth. Absolute horror washed over me and all I could say was, “Oh God! Oh God! GodGodGod!”–the prayer of a terrified parent.

Aaron slammed the car into park while it was still moving and I jumped out of the car almost before it stopped and ran around to Benji’s carseat (he was behind Aaron) crying “Jesus Jesus Jesus–help us!” He was still vomiting blood and was completely covered. I remember Aaron telling me to calm down and I pull myself together for Benji’s sake–and Micah who is watching this whole ordeal.

I am shaking as I try to unbuckle my son–he is crying and completely drained of color. Aaron tells me, “I’ll get him! You get Micah!” We quickly change places, running around the car. Aaron grabs Benji and runs with him into the ER. I am so concerned about getting into the hospital that I forgot my purse in the front seat. I walk as quickly as I can with Micah, trying not to jostle him. He asked me, “Mommy, was that ketchup?” Poor baby! He is probably so scared and confused. I said, “Sure, honey. It was ketchup.” Sometimes it’s better to lie.

Thankfully, when you run into the ER and are covered in blood, they take you back right away. I was doing fine until the attendant asked me what happened–only a few sentences in, I burst into tears. The nurse told me to pull it together–“you need to be strong for your kids!” She was right but it was so incredibly hard. Having Micah in my arms gave me strength to do it though. I didn’t want him to be scared. So through my tears I told him that Mommy was scared and sometimes people cry when they are scared but I am still going to take care of you.

Poor Aaron lost it too. Both of us were weeping in the hallway of the ER. Benji was just laying against Aaron’s chest, not even crying anymore.

Micah was so brave through the whole ordeal–he didn’t cry once. He drank his water and took his medication and was given toys by the nurses. He was such a good boy–especially for having surgery that morning too!

Everyone in the ER was wonderful–we saw a doctor within 3 minutes of going back and saw the ENT doctor on call within 10 minutes. Thank God the bleeding had stopped but we made a decision to have Benji go back under for surgery to re-cauterize his throat. They had an OR open and he was in surgery within an hour. They “suctioned out” his stomach of blood too (when they told me that, I said, “So you pumped his stomach.” They said, “No, mom! That is so harsh! We just suctioned it out.” Hmm…semantics.)

Benji was out of surgery by 6pm and his wake up was rough. He cried a lot and hated the IV’s again. All he wanted to do was drink–which was a good thing!–and once we were out of danger of throwing up again, he drank and drank and started to feel better.

The nurse was so nice to us when we were in recovery and brought Micah chocolate pudding. Aaron’s cousin brought us food to the hospital and stayed for a few minute while Benji was getting his strength back.

We finally left around 7:30 and came home, exhausted in every way possible.

Thankfully, Aaron’s mom was on her way up from FL (she asked if we wanted her to come up and we enthusiastically said YES) and would be here the next day by noon.

Sorry this was so long. I thought about writing about what happened a few days after it happened but I wasn’t ready yet. Even writing it all down now, I felt myself tearing up. I have never been so scared as when I saw my child vomiting blood (even though I know, in my head, that it was just his body’s way of getting rid of the drainage. Apparently, the stomach doesn’t like blood too much). I ended up throwing away  Benji’s clothes and Aaron’s shirt (the OR nurse gave Aaron surgeon’s scrubs to wear because his shirt and shorts were covered in blood), though I did manage to get Aaron’s shorts clean. Horrible, horrible day.

The rest of the week has been up and down. Days 2 and 3 weren’t bad–the hardest thing has been to get the boys to drink their medicine, especially at night. The literally developed phobias of drinking meds–with screaming, shaking, spitting, kicking, etc. Oooh. It is not fun. We were usually up for 30min to an hour each time we had to give them meds.

The days have been spent watching movies and playing with new toys that Grammy bought, church friends brought, and play group friends graciously gave us. I have felt so loved with all the cards, gifts, coffee, meals, bread, desserts, and prayers that have been given to us and for us. Thank you all, dear friends.

Day 4 was worse than previous days. Days five through seven–even worse. And the night times of these days, pretty much hell. I haven gotten less than 5 hours of sleep each for the past two nights–last night I was up every hour until 4am with Benji and then up from 4 to 4:45 with both boys. They both got up before 8am. Thank God all of us took a LONG nap today.

They seemed more perky tonight (day 8) and a peek into their throats revealed that the whiteness (scabs) has reduced dramatically so I think (hope? PRAY!) that the road to recovery is starting to improve. We probably have a 3-4 more days at home and then we can get back to a sense of normalcy.

The good news: Both boys can breathe through their noses now and there is NO MORE sleep apnea!! No more snoring! Sweet, silent, glorious breathing at night. Thank God.

It was worth it.

But, boy, was it a big price to pay.

  1. Oh my goodness! How scary! That made ME cry just reading it! I'll pray for continued recovery and for you ALL to be able to catch up on sleep!

  2. I cried just reading it and can't imagine being in your shoes living through it. I'm so glad you can say it was worth it. I know it was horrible to go through. I wish we were closer so we could have been there to help too. I'm glad you've had so much support from everyone up there! We'll keep praying as they recover, but praise the Lord they already sound better sleeping!

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