Tonsillectomy: The lies they tell you at a children’s hospital

 Adventures in Parenting  Comments Off on Tonsillectomy: The lies they tell you at a children’s hospital
Jul 212014

Leading up to a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy for my three-year-old, some well-intentioned folks pumped us full of lies

My three-year-old daughter, a.k.a. Godzilla, a.k.a. Destroyer of Cities, had her tonsils and adenoids removed last week. It was a routine procedure conducted by a highly regarded surgeon at one of the best children’s hospitals in the United States. Still, as a parent, it’s a nerve-racking experience to watch your baby girl get hopped up on anesthesia and liquid narcotics and then have a stranger with a bro-tastic goatee cleverly hidden behind his surgical mask start slicing around in her throat. The people at the hospital understand this, which is why they’ve come up with a series of lies to tell parents to ease their nerves. As a public service, I’m going to share and debunk some of those lies right here, right now.

adenoid diagram

If you’re like me, you’re probably like, “Where the fuck are the adenoids?” Well, here’s a diagram. I still have no clue.

1. Your child will self-regulate her activity level to help herself recover. The doctor actually told us this, with a straight face, while looking me in the eye. “We find that kids will regulate their own activity to allow themselves to rest more and recover. She’ll probably want to lie around a lot for the next few days.”

Um, no. Clearly this guy has never met Godzilla in the wild, nor many high-energy three year olds. After spending the night in the hospital, we brought Godzilla home the next morning, and she promptly began chasing her brothers around the house in between doing a series of pirouettes to screams of “Look at me, Daddy!” To get her to calm down and actually rest after her surgery, we had to bring her car seat inside, strap her in extra tight and point her at a TV playing Frozen on repeat.

2. Staying overnight in the hospital allows everyone to rest. And by “rest” we mean “wake up every 90 minutes for a check of vital signs, administering of medications and idle 4:00 a.m. chit chat.” Seriously, what is it about night-shift nurses that makes them so chatty in the middle of the night?

I’ve been through this drill before, when Godzilla had to spend the night in the hospital last year for a highly contagious respiratory infection. Every hour or so, a nurse came in wearing full HAZMAT gear, scared the shit out of both of us, poked and prodded Godzilla until she erupted in a fire-breathing fit, and then left us with an admonishing directive: “Do try to get some rest.” Oh, you mean like I was doing before this little episode? Yes, exactly.

Needless to say, when the wife volunteered to stay with Godzilla during this post-tonsillectomy slumber party, I did not argue.

3. She won’t want to talk much for a few days. You know, because she just had surgery on her throat, which tends to make it sore. The no-talking statement was probably made without considering the effects of anesthesia, hospital-grade painkillers and abundant sugar intake from a diet consisting entirely of popsicles and ice cream. Not sure about your kid, but when you drug mine with narcotics and give her a month’s worth of sugar in one day, you’ve got a chatty preschooler on your hand. Also a wild preschooler who wants to ride the hospital wheelchairs like a surf board the second you turn your back (see lie #1).

4. We have everything you need here at the hospital to make your stay comfortable. Except for an adult-sized bed for a parent to sleep on. “Comfort” at the children’s hospital comes in small packages.

5. This is probably harder on the parents than it is on the child. I’m counting this as a lie because no matter how stressful this situation is for the parents, we’re not the ones having surgery and getting pumped full of drugs that make us loopy like it’s night two of Bonaroo. As parents, we suffer for our kids, but we can’t go through these life experiences for them, as much as we might want to. So you put on a brave face, tell them it will all be over soon and march them into whatever life has waiting for them. About 99% of the time, it turns out just fine. Kids are resilient. And they have short memories. My three-year-old little girl is tougher and braver and more determined than I ever will be. She’s a kid, but she’s not completely naïve. She knew she was walking into a difficult situation that wasn’t going to be all dancing unicorns and rainbow sherbet. And she didn’t blink. She stepped up, took her medicine (literally) and owned it. That’s the matter-of-fact bravery of childhood that so many of us grown-ups have forgotten. Did she cry and get scared and cringe from the pain afterwards? Yes, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re faced with a traumatic situation. Sure, this experience was harder on the kid going through the procedure than her parents watching from the sidelines, but she’s got the tools to deal with it, and she’ll be just fine.

Oh, and in case anyone is wondering: If you remove Godzilla’s tonsils, does she still breathe fire? The answer is yes. Hells yes. Look out, world, this kid’s going to be back destroying cities before you know it.


Tonsils or not, Godzilla is ready to wreck some shit.