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The Truth About Getting Kids' Tonsils Out

Beginning in January of this year, my oldest, who is 9, began getting getting repeated bouts of strep throat. He is my healthiest eater and rarely gets sick anymore now that he's older. But a few days after a round of antibiotics would end, he'd complain of a sore throat. So I'd take him to urgent care and, sure enough: strep throat. Again.

By the fourth time it happened, I had become alarmed. He had come home from baseball practice with a fever and said his throat hurt. It was strep. This time, our rock start pediatrician got us in with the top ENT doctor at a great hospital here in Los Angeles. Their schedule was full, so we had to wait another week for an appointment.

Three weeks later, his tonsils were removed.

My natural friends balked at how often he was prescribed antibiotics.

Surgery, of any kind for your child, is scary. Here are some things I learned while going through these bouts of strep and getting his tonsils removed. As with almost all things kid related, I sought solace from fellows moms, my doctor and by actively avoiding the Internet.

1. Removing kids' tonsils can improve their mood

My poor son and I have been fighting a lot these last four months. It was really bothering me that he was sullen, crying easily and picking on his siblings. My pediatrician friend said strep can have some neurological effects on kids. I caught strep from him during one of his bouts, and I concur. He must have been incredibly worn down from not only strep but also not sleeping well. By day 11, post operation, we were getting along so much better. He's not waking up mad at the world, because he's sleeping better. Despite the fact that my son is a wonderful student and an avid reader, strep was affecting his school work. That, too, appears to be behind us.

2. Frequent strep means frequent antibiotics

My natural friends balked at how often he was prescribed antibiotics. I didn't like it either. But the alternative was possible kidney damage or rheumatic fever. We tried to stop the antibiotics, but strep kept coming back. Eventually, he was put on a low dose until his surgery date. While on the antibiotics, I pumped him with vitamins C and D, and also daily probiotics.

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3. It can take weeks between diagnosis and surgery

This being Los Angeles, it took three weeks to get my son in for surgery, and that was with the help of my awesome pediatrician pushing for it. That being said, make sure your kid isn't wearing himself out. We didn't do a great job on this, which I'm only now seeing in hindsight. Learn from my parenting mistakes! Take it easy.

4. The hospital may call with the surgery time just the night before

My son had to stop eating at midnight. In the morning, he could have apple juice or water up until three hours prior. At that point, nothing.

Some other things I learned: Recovery took a lot longer than I thought it might. The stereotype of eating ice cream is true. I am so glad we did this.

We got to the hospital an hour and a half prior to the surgery. They admitted him and then took him into the pre-op room. This is where he got nervous. They gave him "happy juice." Unfortunately, it only made him nauseous.

After 15 minutes, they wheeled him away from us, and we waited for him. I was relieved those bacteria harvesting meanies were coming out. I was also high-fiving myself for not passing out or drinking at 11:30 in the morning (because nerves).

5. The actual procedure is pretty fast

Just 30 minutes! A tonsillectomy is such a quick procedure, so people often think it's not big deal, but it is.

We went and saw him right away. We gave him a popsicle. We went home after another hour and a half. (All told, 4 hours at the hospital.) He was doing pretty well, and we explained to him that he would have to drink to stay hydrated. Then, he basically played on the iPad for the next five days.

6. Stay ahead of the pain

I became his nurse. I slept in the same bed with him and woke him up to stay ahead of the pain. The first night was very scary, because he said he couldn't breathe. The two things the nurses said to call an ambulance for were bleeding and breathing. We were pretty shook up and about to go, but then he calmed down and drank a yogurt smoothie, which helped to get more medicine in him. I switched between Tylenol, Motrin and oxycontin. The oxycontin made him loopy and very hard to rationalize with. I

7. I scream, you scream, he's going to eat a lot of ice cream

I tried making him smoothies with advocado and bananas, but even those were too painful. He truly could only eat ice cream and popsicles. Don't be the health hero. Let go and stock up.

8. Don't look

Looking into his mouth the first time, I almost passed out. The hospital forgot to tell me what a post-op mouth looks like. It's disgusting. I Googled it and realized disgusting was normal. You want to look once a day to check for bleeding.

9. Recovery lasted 12 days

The guy is normally like a string bean and eats like a bored truck driver. He became a single strand of spaghetti, un-cooked. I needed to have multiple days of trying to finally get food into him, so he'd have energy. He stopped the oxycontin on Day 5. Day 6 and 7 were very painful for him.

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10. He wasn't allowed to do anything physical for 9 days

My son is back to school tomorrow. He'll still take medicine at school, and I'll have him sit gym out tomorrow. But he should be good to go.

Some other things I learned: Recovery took a lot longer than I thought it might. The stereotype of eating ice cream is true. I am so glad we did this. I'm so happy to know that he is feeling better and will be back to himself. It really was a long few months of not feeling well for him.

I also would like to say that I had an iPad intervention around Day 7, at which point he converted to books, which is when I knew the old him would be back. Minus the tonsils.

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