Tonsils and Adenoids, Oh My!

Easton on Easter 2014

Easton on Easter 2014

My little guy Easton will be having surgery on Wednesday. He will have his adenoids and tonsils removed. I am a wreck about it. He’s not the first in the family to have this done. Owen had his tonsils and adenoids removed when he was 5, in 2008; I had my tonsils removed in the fall of 2012; and Macy had her tonsils removed when she was 12, in December of 2012. And I think that is what is making this worse for me. I KNOW what he is in for, and therefore, what WE are in for.

With Owen, I was blissfully unaware of what to expect. And he was easy! He had– and has– an unbelievable pain tolerance. It was bad for 3-4 days. And then he rapidly improved. His surgery was very necessary because his tonsils were so large that they caused him to snore so loudly and stop breathing in his sleep.

With me, I was MISERABLE for 14 days. It was so bad that I SWORE I would never subject one of my kids to this again! I felt horribly guilty for having put Owen through it, even though I knew it was medically necessary. I regretted doing it to myself also. I second guessed how bad my tonsils were to begin with, even though they were pretty darn bad. I didn’t feel normal again for at least a month after the surgery.

Next, with Macy, it was a difficult decision. Her surgery was authorized for an unconventional reason: tonsil stones. Her tonsils were much larger than average, and very cryptic. These holes in her tonsils would produce a ball of bacteria puss that she could feel in the back of her throat. These things were such an ordeal for her. She would act like a cat with a hair ball: coughing and choking and gagging until one would dislodge. This would happen 3-5 times a week. Many times it happened at school, especially when she was playing her instrument. It was so embarrassing for her. Then she would be tasked with trying to discreetly dispose of this smelly, gross, bacteria puss ball. The doctor was very sympathetic. He said that the tonsil stones would probably get worse as she got older if her tonsils continued to grow. He said that some people would unexpectedly have these tonsil stones go shooting out of their mouths at inappropriate and inopportune times, with no warning whatsoever!! He explained how bad the recovery from surgery would be, but he guaranteed she would never have another tonsil stone again. He said that at 12 years old she was old enough to decide for herself if she wanted the surgery. I’ll be honest, I tried to talk her out of it. I knew how bad it was. But she wanted to go ahead with it. Her recovery was closer to my experience. She was miserable for almost a full 2 weeks. She regretted her decision to have the surgery. But then she got better, her throat healed, and she was glad she would never have another tonsil stone again.

So that brings me to Easton. Why does he need this surgery? Since he turned 3 I have brought up his speech at his yearly well-check. And 2 years in a row we have gone for speech therapy evaluations. Each time being told that he has some delays, but they are within normal for his age. For over 3 years, I have watched as people look to me to “translate” what he is saying to them or constantly ask him to repeat something. It was so sad! Lately, if someone would ask him “What?” he would say, “Forget it.” It was frustrating for him and heartbreaking for me. He had ideas that he couldn’t convey and gave up trying! So I continued to advocate for him. At his 5 year well-check, I brought it up again and the doctor ordered another speech therapy evaluation (his third in 3 years!) and a hearing test. The hearing test came first. The tech who did it was amazing! Turns out, he had one when he was 3 too that I forgot about. But even though he technically passed both tests, she noted that he had trouble hearing a certain range both times. She went back and read a note on the first test that said he had a cold when tested and probably had fluid in his ears. This time he didn’t currently have a cold, but had the same results. She looked in his ears and did not see any fluid, even though his current result also looked like he could have it. She asked me about his speech issues. She asked me about how many colds he gets (A LOT… almost continual colds). Then she said, “My ‘Mommy Senses’ are telling me that something more is going on with him. I’m going to have the ENT doctor look at him, even though I normally don’t refer patients who technically pass.” So a week later we see the pediatric ENT who agreed with the hearing test tech. He was quite confident that it was Easton’s adenoids that were pushing on his eustachian tubes and causing the hearing issues and thus, the speech issues, and also the reason he was sick all the time. The doctor also commented that the entire time Easton was in the exam room, he breathed 100% with his mouth open, which I never thought about, but he always does. He said that is a sign of enlarged adenoids and that it can lead to other issues with his palate development and teeth. He ordered an x-ray to confirm, but scheduled the surgery before getting the results, he was that confident. He recommended taking his tonsils at the same time because his were enlarged and because of our strong family history of tonsil issues. He said he might as well do both now, than have to do a second surgery later. I reluctantly agreed. A few days later the doctor emailed to inform us that the x-ray showed that Easton’s adenoids were extremely enlarged and blocking 80-85% of his nasal passage. My poor guy! No wonder he was having so many issues.

So here we are, less than 33 hours away from Easton’s surgery. And I am so sad for him. Not only does he not have anywhere close to the pain tolerance Owen had at his age, he has a completely different personality. Where Owen was a loud, outgoing, and carefree 5 year old; Easton is a shy, sensitive, and often-times anxious 5 year old. He already hates going to the doctor because of shots and blood draws, how is he going to react to this?

We finally told him tonight and he predictably FREAKED OUT. He hid under the table. Said he wasn’t going to do it. And cried. We tried to find out what he was really scared of, but it really came down to all of the unknowns of it. I tried to give him more information, using age-appropriate language, but he wasn’t even able to listen without getting more upset. We talked to him about all the popsicles and ice cream he will get to eat afterwards, but he wasn’t listening. The best thing was just to stop talking about it and move on to something else. I hope that he’ll try to process it over the next 24 hours and maybe have some questions that we can calmly answer for him. I have accepted that he’s never going to be excited or happy to go, but this surgery is necessary to improve his quality of life, and it is my job as his mom to just get him to it and then get him through it. It is not about me. It is about him. And he will be fine.