Now I know, I am getting old – these days I mostly think only about my health. Well, there is a good-enough reason for that really, I had a tonsillectomy a few days ago. Yes, I had to look up that word. And there are many things you only hear from your friends and family about it, so I thought it better to write down my experience so that others could recoil in terror before this surgery – and be prepared.

My story began several years back, when I was 20 or something. This was the first time some doctor thought of looking into my throat and discovered some pus on my tonsils. I had to take some antibiotics and there was a procedure I had to go through every day on site. That time it got all well, only some holes remained. I didn’t even think about it too much afterwards for years.

Last year about the same time I got gradually aware of my throat being always a bit sore. I didn’t drink cold drinks, I drank a lot of tea with honey (and lemon if possible), held it always covered up with my clothes… I have always been very sensitive to cold, but even then I noticed, that this constant sore throat is affecting my clothing style, with all those high-necked jumpers. But as the soreness wasn’t really critical I put off going to therapist all the time. I don’t like to disrupt my normal everyday life and that is the main reason I won’t go to doctors too easily. So spring came, weather was sunny and my throat got well. Not that well that I could eat icecream unlimited, constantly drink cold water etc, but well enough that it didn’t bother me every day.

Came summer and fell fall. The first time I discovered my old throat soreness is back was after I read first bed-time story for my son after his holiday with my parents in the country. I thought, maybe that’s what it was from all the time! I was more careful with these bedtime stories, sipping a bit of water, not singing too long, choosing shorter stories, letting my son read some of it himself… But it didn’t help. I settled that it must be the cold and wet weather of estonian fall and winter after all – I settled for 9 months of sore throat.

Then sometime in October it got worse. The pain attacked my ears as well and looking into my throat I saw similar pus spots as at that earlier time. Only then did I come to terms with the inevitable – I visited a doctor for ear, nose and throat diseases. When I really went to the appointment, I had got the problem to mild down with home means (there wasn’t any earlier appointment time free). So the doctor didn’t think very seriously about the soreness and wrote just mild antibiotics and told to be back in a week, if it doesn’t get better. I was sure it wouldn’t and I was right.

While taking these pills my throat got actually worse and I was back after a week. Then the doctor really saw the worst of it and said that if we don’t get it well, we’ll have to cut the tonsils out. That time the pills were stronger and for a time I didn’t have the sore throat anymore. I was even a bit hopeful, that this could be it, but then it came back again, worse than ever.

I got the appointment sooner as a repeating visit because there was so little time from my last visit. It was a new doctor (because the other one had gotten sick). She looked into my throat, looked into the case history and said we’ll have to cut the tonsils out. Wrote me a transmittal letter and told to call for an appointment for operating doctor of ear, nose and throat diseases in another clinic (because at that clinic there wasn’t one). That was it, she didn’t even give me antibiotics to alleviate my pains at that moment! That was the hardest time to get over the main soreness, the pain in the ears… I even was doubtful if i should go to a concert at that time (I did and I am happy I did) because I had that big a ache in my throat and especially ears. I used too much Trachitol and somehow the pain got down to bearable again.

But the appointment to operating doctor wasn’t available until 19th of February. Luckily I didn’t have very bad episodes between the last visit to my own doctor and the one in the other hospital. It was just a soreness, that sometimes got a bit into my ears. Sometimes it manifested as an headache as well. In worse cases a warming lamp for my ears helped a lot. And keeping a diet of only warm foods and drinks as well.

Then the day came and I went to see the operating doctor. She had only one look at my throat and said, yes, these have to be cut out, is tomorrow okay? The shock! Tomorrow a surgery when I had been at home with my son for almost all of that year! When I had a ticket for a concert tomorrow night (disappointed in it, by the way)! When I had plans of going to a trip just some weeks later (11.-16.03 in London)! When I had just been blood donor a few days ago! When I had just bought a card for a month in a sports club! None of these were any real arguments, of course. They assured me that I would be well for the trip – and if I wanted that, that had to be soon to let me have the time to get well. And they were able to get me a time day after the tomorrow as well (that is 21 not 20), to let me go to the concert.

They explained, that it is very unusual to have the surgey so soon after the decision, but some of their patients had gotten sick and so they could put me in instead. They gave me a bunch of papers to read – about general anaesthesia, about all that I have to agree with, about my own physical condition, how should I act on the morning before the surgery and told to be there (ironically, the surgery took place in the same hospital where I went to see the first nose, ear, throat doctor, that wasn’t operating herself) at 7:30. And they took some blood samples.

Now, I was truly shaken. Truly afraid. Why? My sister died in 1995 while in general anaesthesia on a non-lethal operation. I couldn’t help but be afraid of having the same fate. Some thoughts that went through my mind:

< p>As you see, I had several quite scary thoughts, but most of them were rather trivial. Oh, I did cloak my fear into jokes and behind a happy facade. Seriously, many people hadn’t probably seen me before as happy as I was at that day. I even filled the questionaires at work to have fun doing it – quoting questions, wondering about whether I should list chocolate as something I am addicted to, etc. But it was all a show…

I didn’t write the last will and testament, I didn’t really believe I would die. But I got more and more afraid of the surgery itself and the pain afterwards after each bit of information anybody gave me.

Me myself, I couldn’t help but read wikipedia about general anaesthesia, then I found out the condition my sister died from, Malignant Hyperthermia, on read that as well. That latter really made me fear. Some facts I couldn’t help but send almost everybody:

I was determined to repeat the fact that my sister died of it over and over to everybody in the hospital. I was really jumpy, I even left the concert I went to before its end – I don’t know if it wasn’t really my kind of band or I was just too preoccupied, but I just couldn’t connect. So I bought a 4,5L box of icecream (not for that evening but for eating afterwards) and some milk and went home. Got a nice massage bath, sent out the last of horrible facts about my sister’s condition and how it makes my surgery more risky, found out the best route to the hospital (and what time should I go out), filled my bag, ordered EMT MSN Messenger into my mobile, slept well.

In the morning I got up OK 20 min before the departure, checked my mail for the last time and off I went. I couln’t eat or drink before the surgery so the usual breakfast was skipped. And I didn’t need any makeup in the hospital (though some time ago I read in some stupid women magazine, that hospitals are a good place to look for men, because bank director can be there just as easily as your common folk and you already have something to talk about, but I knew that wasn’t for me). So there I was, 30min early. Sheckley “Status Society” went open right away and I read. I read all the time until I got changed into hospital clothes and was led into a room four floors up. There was two beds, a sad young girl (seventeen or something?) with biiig cotton tampon below her nose was curled up in the other bed. We didn’t exchange even one word. I read.

It was a really interesting spot in the book when a medicinal sister came and asked a few questions. That was the first time I got the chance to point out my sister’s death. She left. I read again.

Another interesting spot and another medicinal sister leading me with my bed to the surgery room. Before that she robbed me of all my valuables – to put into a safe of course. I was given a cap for my hair (though I had braided my hair beforehand, I don’t do it usually) and then given over to another sister – with a mask, only overly painted eyes and some wrinkles showing through the slit between the cap and mask (she scared me although I could see she was smiling behind the mask). The operating room wasn’t impressive at all. Rather usual room, just one bed in the center. Another Monthy Python moment – after I had been laid down on the operating table and made comfortable there, a sister in the room asked something like “Shouldn’t we bring the machine here as well? You know the one I mean…” (The one that goes Ping! ?). But that wasn’t true. A woman in her forties sat down and started asking questions about the anaesthesic questionnaire I had filled. It was kind of confusing moment. One medicinal sister doing something with my right and another with my left arm and she asking me questions. She asked about the incident with my sister, several questions (I remember being asked why was she having a surgery, where, what year was that, how old was she). Then she decided for a drug, said that to the sister at my left and …

That’s it. I woke up. It was that instantaneous I couldn’t even start being afraid again, not one thought about how that could be it (reading before was a kind of defence mechanism. I wasn’t really in that world where I would be having a surgery – where I could die – soon. I was in a book, but only an observer, I would be OK, I didn’t have to be afraid).

Waking up my first problem was – I forgot to breathe! That’s so silly, but it is true. I have always breathed, all my life. But I didn’t remember I felt no need for it, I didn’t remember how to do it. I was given oxygen mask and told to breathe. I concentrated on that one thing and somehow started doing it again. Oxygen smelled like fresh air. When I had got into the rhythm once again, they asked me if it was painful. That’s the first time I thought about it and “Yes” I answered. They added something to the mix that was dripping into my vein, took away the oxygen mask saying something about how that dries up the throat and it isn’t very good. At some time I was said I was on my own bed again. I was on my right side with cannula into my left arm. I was really sleepy. At that moment, when I was transported back to my room on my bed, I thought that I had promised to send sms to everybody if I didn’t die (it’s obvious my fears were void), but I was sooo sleeepy and I believe I slept at the time I reached back into my room.

When I opened my eyes, Status Society was soon open again. I believe somebody came to see that sad little girl and then I could ask my valuables back so that I could sms. Or MSN for that matter. I had promised to sms so I did, but after that I logged into MSN and spoke with several people. But it was really tiring at first, before I found the perfect pose – holding the phone with my left and typing with my more dexterous right. Surprisingly, my eyes didn’t focus well after a few hours of reading and msning and so I slept again. And then woke up again and read, then slept again and … At some time the floor sister came and gave the other girl food, but to me she gave only another bag to be dripped into my vein. I found it interesting, that I didn’t feel any hunger. I know I was fed through the vein, but doesn’t the maw want food whenever it is empty? Apparently not.

All that time I was wondering, that it isn’t that painful at all, as I would have thought. The tube coming into my vein made finding a comfortable pose difficult, but It wasn’t that difficult. I couldn’t be on my back because then something in my throat would try to block my breathing, but on the side it was OK. The pain in the throat wasn’t worse than the soreness before the operation. So when the medicinal sister came to give me my painkiller, I would have denied the need if she had but asked. She didn’t.

That’s how my day there went. Reading, sleeping, messaging – and then all over and over again. At some tim
e the other girl had a visitor and then another. At some time she was said that if she wouldn’t eat she would have to be fed directly into her vein. But for me the time was very peaceful. I finished the book by evening (and that is really slow reading for me, I finished the other Sheckley book that I. gave me on the day before without letting it even interrupt my regular day). I was disconnected from the dripping bag for the night. After finishing the book I went to sleep.

That’s where I leave off tonight, I’ll try to continue the story soon with the true revealations at home.

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