August 19, 2013

Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy Surgery for the big kid; Part 1

Kael had a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy surgery on Tuesday, August 13th. This procedure is becoming less and less common as surgeons and society figures out that cutting things up or doping people up with meds may not always be the right thing to do. In decades past, people and children who got a T&A surgery did so because they are constantly sick;  Their tonsils swell considerably, then shrink, swell and shrink. The number of t&a surgeries has gone down “considerably” since 2009 when Obama made a concerned statement about the frequency of the procedure. Because of that, in the last few years T&A’s are mostly performed in children due to obstruction, we realized that being sick isn't reason enough to go cutting off body parts; they aren’t suffering from swelling and shrinking constantly, they are just big robust and healthy bits of flesh that are causing problems.

Kael was diagnosed with ADHD at the end of the last school year. Unfortunately, I was not made aware of any challenges he was having at school until the school year was nearly over. It was an eye opening experience. I was/am hyper. I know hyper. I also know that it wasn't until I was an adult that I recognized what a negative impact that hyperactivity has had on areas of my life and have since begun treating it. It’s not something everyone grows out of. So hearing this diagnoses for Kael, seeing all the checkmarks down those questionnaire test pages, and actually comparing him in the classroom setting to the other little boys and their actions was a wakeup call for me that was scary. He wasn't just an active boy, He was a super happy cheerful giant puppy that was struggling. I know what the struggle feels like and I do NOT want that for my son, so we jumped into ways to manage this with him instantly.  I had the summer to come up with something that would help him before he was back at school where his symptoms were most damaging to him emotionally.

I have a low intervention outlook when it comes to my children. They very rarely go to the doctor for illness unless it’s something that could have real long term consequences. They went once for Rotavirus when they were babies, and that’s the only sickness related time they have been in. This new diagnoses didn't change that. We met with the pediatrician, did some research, met with her again, tried some vitamin and mineral supplements, met with her again, and finally agreed to try a very small dose of short-acting Ritalin. Seemed to be working for 3 days, then he began hearing voices in his head, having extreme anger outbursts ( VERY unlike my boy, violence has NEVER been something he fought with) and quite a bit of self harm thoughts. Once I realized it was tied to the meds I pulled him right off. He was on Ritalin for 10 days and the last 7 of those ten were very scary days for all of us. I swore then that I would never ever medicate my kid again. If he needed to have special accommodations at school or in life to make things work for him, that’s what we’d do.

Then my pediatrician came back with another check list for him, and we went on a short vacation. My eyes were opened. Kael has always snored. Just about every night, and it’s a loud snore. He has done so as far back as I can remember, and I don’t even notice it anymore. One day on a trip out of town, I realized that the days he woke up from sleeping on an air mattress were really GOOD days for him! Considerably better than the days he woke up from sharing the real bed with me. I also realized that those nights on the air mattress were quiet.. he hardly snored at all. I took that revelation and the checklist from our pediatrician and had me a big dumb AH hA moment; My son didn’t suffer from ADAH, he was just EXHAUSTED and running on overdrive every second of every day. Sleeping on the air mattress, with the natural sag in the middle, elevated his upper body a bit no matter how he flailed around at night. His butt will always be heaver than his head, so his head was higher, which led to less snoring. From his first visit to the dentist, the size of his tonsils has been remarked on. Because he never got sick ( seriously, I have healthy kids!) they were never a problem and his Daddy has giant tonsils that didn’t seem to be causing him problems. Well Google, our pediatrician, input from other parents, and finally a visit with our local Ear Nose and Throat doctor cleared that right up. If you’ve ever had children you’ll remember those days when your toddler decides napping is just not cool; you could always tell when it was nap time because your child turned into a bit of a turd. You could see they were maybe almost manic as they fought off the exhaustion. That was Kael. He was getting such crap sleep every night that by the time noon rolls around his body is DONE, and he reacted just like every other body does; he’d get hyper. The way to fix that was to get him some decent sleep,allow his body to rest. There was one obvious culprit, one easily seen fix; a Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy surgery was scheduled. My poor kid, I was terrified of the surgery but really hopeful for how this would help him in his life.

Think back to that part where I talk about reasons for tonsillectomy; most of the stories you’ve heard of people relating their own or their children’s’ surgeries were from the “constantly sick” crowd. Tonsillectomy for adults has  usually been for the healthy but big crowd. We hear that kids heal up much faster than adults, that’s it’s easier for kids than it is for adults. The reason for that is that in adults it’s a considerably larger wound; that’s not just because they’re older. It’s because most kids had the "swell and shrink" tonsils which mean the day they had surgery they WEREN’T sick and their tonsils were tiny little lumps. Tiny lumps mean tiny wounds. Naturally giant tonsils are wider and deeper “rooted” than average normal tonsils. This means big deep wounds. Big. And it’s not just tonsils alone. Big tonsils usually means big adenoids. Both of these big mean big pain, in the end.

I was not prepared. All my research done on how much he’d hurt, on the healing process, timeline’s etc. didn’t differentiate between reasons for surgery. A T&A is a T&A is a T&A. That is such crap. SUCH CRAP. “Oh, it’s three or four days with a sore throat, then they’re back to normal! Have to be cautious with chips and things for a week or so, but it’s really not that big a deal! Just give them lots of ice cream and popsicles! Cold stuff! It’s a big treat for them!”

That is such bullshit.

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