Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Nothing cuts through a Benadryl haze like the cry of a child in pain...

How do I know this? Because, two days ago, my baby, my sweet little 4-year old boy, had a tonsilectomy and adenoidectomy, which is commonly known as a "T & A" for short. (I'm not kidding. The nurse told me that's what they call it.) Anyway, last night, after being awake for most of the last 48 hours, I took a Benadryl with my usual nightly glass of cabernet. (An occasional sleep aid, recommended to me by a nurse friend of mine.) I figured, now that we knew Fos was doing OK, I could relax a little bit and try to get some rest, so I could try to approach something close to my normal level of functioning. Worked like a charm! I was completely knocked out by 9:00pm...until just after midnight, that is, when Foster's cry of pain cut straight through the Benadryl haze, and I flew from my bed to my little guy's side, adrenalin pumping through my body. The best alarm clock in the world couldn't have woken me up faster or more thoroughly than that cry...And, the accompanying adrenalin kept me awake the rest of the night. So, back to square one with the whole sleep issue.

As for the surgery...I remember getting my tonsils out as a kid, but it's just a blur of jello and ice cream to me. I don't actually remember the pain.  As it turns out, there's a whole lot of it. When they told us that Fos would have to have his adenoids and tonsils out, I just didn't think it was going to be that big of a deal. I mean, I was terrified of my little guy going under anesthesia, and I didn't want him experiencing any level of pain, but I just didn't realize what a long and truly painful ordeal this is. Our ear-nose-throat doctor was great, and he explained it very thoroughly for us. When they cut out adenoids and tonsils, they have to leave the wound open. They can't suture it up, because the area moves around too much and won't hold stitches. So, there's just an exposed wound with raw nerves back there, until it closes up by itself about 6 days after surgery. That's why the pain is so bad, and why it doesn't go away until the wound is completely closed. My poor, poor little guy...

Surgery day:

1) No sleep the night before. Not Foster. Me. I snuggled into bed with him that night, and he said, "Mommy. When Dr. Knops tells me to open my mouth tomorrow, I'm gonna kick him in the head." Then he went off to sleep. I was up most of the night. Tossing, turning, imagining worst-case scenarios...Listening to my husband blissfully snoring. How do men do that?!!

2) When Fos did wake up, at his usual 6:00am, he wasn't allowed to eat or drink anything. We had to entertain him as best as we could until we left for the hospital at 7:30. He actually did a pretty good job, but he kept looking up with pitiful eyes and saying, "I'm thirsty, Mommy. I'm hungry, Mommy. Pleeeeease can I have something?" Gulp.

3) About 15 minutes after we arrived, they took us into a special little waiting area. It was a cheerily painted little cubicle with stories, games, and a little red wagon parked in the corner. Fos was doing great. He mentioned kicking Dr. Knops again, this time "in the butt", but he was generally pretty cheerful. He liked changing into his little hospital gown with tigers all over it and the cozy little hospital socks. He thought it was hilarious to have his naked butt cheeks poking out the back, so he did a little dance around the room to show them off. Hubby and I studiously avoided looking into each other's eyes, since we knew that would be a recipe for one, or both, of us to start crying, thinking about the surgery to come...

4) Then came "sleepy juice." That's what they call it. What is it? It's a yummy little sedative that makes kids relaxed and kind've loopy, so they aren't anxious when they go into surgery and aren't even really aware of what's happening. I immediately asked for my own dose, but they turned me down. Foster insisted that the juice wasn't going to make him sleepy, because "I'm never tired!"And, it did take a while. He was sitting on my lap, all wrapped up in a warm blanket, while John read us both a story. Then he started to get heavier and heavier. All of a sudden, one of his arms kind've floated up into the air, and his hand started making slow, grasping movements. We asked him what he was doing, and he said, "Plant. Plant." I realized that he was looking at the seaweed painted onto the wall across the little room, and he was trying to grab it in his drug-induced haze. It was pretty funny. Like something out of a movie about the drug-crazed 1960's or something...

5) The departure. Even writing this, two and a half days later, I'm getting teary eyed thinking about it. The nurse came in to get us. She had me put Foster into the little red wagon, tuck the little stuffed dog Grandma had sent him next to him, and we were allowed to walk with him down the hall a little ways, "just to the red line." We kissed him and said we'd see him soon, then they wheeled him away. We started walking back to the waiting room, and I told myself not to look back, but I couldn't help it. That was probably the worst part. I could see the nurse's back, as she wheeled my baby away in his his little red wagon, and it took everything I had to keep walking toward the waiting room. What I wanted to do was scream, "Don't cut my baby!" and grab him and run...Luckily, John was holding my hand, firmly, in his own. That kept me strong.

6) The wait. John ran across the street to get us some coffee. I forced myself to sit still and try to read an old Reader's Digest magazine until he got back. Then, we just held hands and drank our lattes and waited. And waited. And waited. After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only about an hour, the surgeon came out to get us. He took us into a separate area and told us the surgery had gone really well. He told us how to avoid dehydration, to watch for hemoraghing, and all the after-care information. And, he educated us about all the things that would worry us, if we didn't know they were perfectly normal. Like what? Well, a full week of high fevers, nausea and vomiting, and extremely bad breath -- a result of the dying tissue. (He wasn't kidding about the breath, either. I snuggle my little guy, and his breath is so bad, it actually makes my eyes water. I think I'd prefer to have my ancient old dog, Cosmo, breathing his toxic breath in my face, than Foster breathing his dragon breath all over me. It's really bad. Like he has road kill in his mouth.)

7) The second wait. Once they told us Fos was out of surgery, we had to wait until he came out of the anesthesia before we could see him. There was a special area for this, and the doctor had told us it would only be about 10 minutes. Not too bad. We were close to the swinging doors that led to the surgery area, so we looked up eagerly every time a nurse came through, hoping she was coming for us. Nope. Over and over and over again, nurses came and went, each one glancing at our pleading puppy eyes before going on their merry way. Finally, after about 40 minutes, when I was about to climb the walls, and John was rubbing my shoulders and telling me to relax, a nurse came back and told us that Foster was sleeping peacefully but it was taking him a while to wake up. She said she couldn't stand to see us looking up anxiously every time she came through the doors, so she'd let us come back and wait with him while he slept.

8) The reunion. Finally, there he was. Sleeping with his butt poking up in the air, hooked up to monitors, with his own nurse keeping an eagle eye on his vital signs. He smelled like blood, and there was blood all over the sheet underneath him. A bit of a shocking sight for us, but he looked really peaceful as well. I was so happy just to be next to him. And, when he finally woke up and saw was one of the most glorious moments of my life. Those big, blue eyes opening up and looking right into mine. It was almost like meeting him for the very first time...

So, now we do what we have to do to survive this week. When the pain medicine kicks in, he's almost normal. Pale and a little weak, with huge, dark circles under eyes, but also his usual goofy personality. Then, the medicine starts to wear off, and there's about an hour or so of agonized crying and shaking and clinging, while we try to ease his pain with popsicles and ice water until we can give him his next dose and wait for it to take effect. It's a roller coaster, that's for sure.

But, in the end, when the swelling goes down, my little guy will be able to really breathe through his nose for the very first time in his life. He'll be able to sleep through the night without his own snoring waking him up. He'll have more energy. He'll be a happier, healthier little guy. All the stress will be worth it.

And, his breath will improve. I can hardly wait for that part!



  1. Beth, I am glad to hear that Foster is doing ok. My husband had sinus and nose surgery and I remember the recovery. It was pretty bad. I will be thinking about Foster and you. I hope you get some sleep soon. :)

  2. Oh, Beth, this was so poignant! Poor little guy. Hopefully his memories of this will also be a blurry haze of jello and ice cream.

    We just found out this week that my daughter has "chronically enlarged tonsils" and have an appt. with an ENT to discuss a tonsilectomy. I was apprehensive before, after reading this I don't know!

    Hope Foster is feeling better before you know it!

  3. Crying. At work. Awesome. My boss already thinks I'm a nutcase and now I'm crying. While reading a blog. At work. My baby has his first appointment with the eye ear nose dude in March. He's been congested all his life. Doesn't eat much. Snores extra loud. etc. At least now I know what to expect if it comes to surgery...

  4. Oh hang in there momma. You sound like you are doing well under the circumstances. I hope your little man feels better soon.

  5. Leah, thanks for the kind words. Maybe tonight will be better, and I can get a little rest. Noelle and Kami, the relief afterwards is supposed to be worth all the pain. No more sore throats. No more chronic snoring and congestion. No worries about orthodontic problems down the road from all the mouth-breathing. So, if it has to happen, hang in there. If I can say that, on day four, you know it's true, right? Momma Hunt, you always make me feel like everything's gonna be OK. Thanks.

  6. I hope he's feeling better soon. I also had my tonsil out when I was about 4 or so and I don't remember it hurting terribly but do remember the jell-o and ice cream too. I hope that's all he remembers as well.