Okay, so I totally thought that because it was just a 30 minute procedure, the prep would be simple. I knew there would be anesthesia, and I knew not to eat or drink anything after midnight. I was told to wear comfy clothes, but I didn’t realize they make you change out of those comfy clothes to wear a gown and hair net until you’re done. They do give you these super comfy non-slip socks (which I totally wore for days after I got home) and keep coming by with warmed blankets so you don’t get cold. You also get an IV in your arm, which is super fun when you realize that the red puddle dripping down the chair is not some sort of flushing liquid but is, in fact, your blood that somehow got all over the place. At least they let T sit with me once I was prepped until they were ready for me.
Pro tip: if you wear contacts, take them out because they end up taping your eyelids shut while you’re under and the nurse will make you take them out. I don’t know why I didn’t just wear my glasses… I’m glad I was sensible enough not to put makeup on at 5 am because I think they would have made me wash my face.
So, here are my prep and recovery notes for the first week.
For some reason, I thought that they’d take me in at 7:30, I’d be done by 8, and we’d be home by 9. They did take me in at 7:30 and then the next thing I knew it was almost 11 and I was waking up. Seriously – I remember walking into the surgery room, them attaching something to the IV to help me relax, getting a new warm blanket and being told my doctor was going to spray my throat to numb it. That’s it. I don’t remember them starting the anesthesia or anything (I swear when I got my wisdom teeth out I remember at least counting backwards). I just remember waking up and being groggy. Apparently, I was quite cheerful and nodded a lot. A nurse brought me a cup of ice with apple juice, got T from the waiting area, and asked if I wanted to change into my clothes. They also asked if I wanted to stay for a while until I was more awake, but I figured if they would let me go, I’d rather be groggy at home.
We got home and I plunked myself on the couch (you’re supposed to sleep sitting up for a few days) and promptly fell asleep. I woke up and could feel my throat starting to throb. We cheated and I took a dose of Vicodin an hour before I was “supposed to” and I don’t care.
Funny story: I picked up my prescription for the largest bottle of liquid Vicodin I’d ever had and had to have a pharmacist consult. For some reason, I got the pharmacy intern. Who was puzzled by this liquid Vicodin and told me I’m probably only supposed to gargle with it and not ingest it. I had to tell him that, no, in fact I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to ingest the actual dose of Vicodin. Then I asked if they had a syringe or measuring thing so I knew how much 15 mL was for each dose. And then things went kablooey. They gave me a syringe, but the pharmacist asked the intern what 15 mL was in tablespoons. And the intern said, “Three. Three tablespoons.” That sounded horribly wrong to me, and the pharmacist corrected him and said, “It’s three TEASPOONS. Which is half a tablespoon.” This is important, because this is the dose I told T when I got home that day. And it’s the dose he gave me for the first day, half a tablespoon. Until the next day, when I started thinking about it and realized that, no, three teaspoons is one WHOLE tablespoon. So, for half a day I was basically taking half a dose of Vicodin and wondering why I was always wishing for more a good two hours before my next dose was due. Ladies and gentlemen, pay attention to your prescription and drug labels and think for yourself. Do not take pharmacists directions blindly because who knows what could happen??
Anyway, I spent the rest of what we will call Surgery Day in a sleepy haze, with puffy feet (I’m guessing because of the IV and anesthesia?), sipping ice cold coconut water in tiny sips because larger sips hurt and not drinking also hurt and thank god Vicodin basically put me to sleep.
Days 1-3 were pretty much the same: Sleep for a couple of hours, sip ice cold water, watch a tv show, see that I still had two hours until I could take more pain meds, go back to sleep for a couple of hours, take pain meds, sleep and repeat. I did manage to take a shower every day and change pajamas (highly recommend this!) I also managed to mostly brush my teeth every night because my mouth felt gross. Everyone tells you to set an alarm so you don’t miss your doses, but I don’t know how anyone can manage to miss one. I was super vigilant of when I was going to be rewarded with another dose. Also, once we learned I was underdosing myself, we upped it to the proper 15 mL dose, but that made me way too loopy and feeling like I was on a boat in a storm, so we backed it down to 10 mL and that seemed to be a happy medium. It also made me feel less guilty if I took a dose an hour before I was supposed to if I felt I needed it. NOTE: don’t listen to me. Take your pain meds as they are prescribed, with the correct dose and on schedule.
Day 4 I decided to make a smoothie, making it the first actual food I think I ate since I had gotten home. I was starving, but that also meant I gulped down the smoothie, which meant I made everything in my mouth ache from too much activity. But, this is also the day I learned that, if I stayed awake, the pain was at its lowest an hour after taking Vicodin, so I could eat and drink and swallow things and then pass out for a couple of hours. I would say I was never not in pain. The back of my tongue was sore, my throat was sore, and it hurt to move my tongue. So, the act of swallowing hurt, swallowing anything hurt, and even trying to lick my lips hurt my tongue. But, as long as I stayed on Vicodin, it was more of a dull ache than an I-want-to-cry hurt. Bonus, I never really got nauseous on it, so I also wasn’t eager to stop taking it and move on to Tylenol or something. Day 4 lesson learned: even when you do nothing buy lie on the couch and sleep, coconut water and one smoothie is not enough to keep your stomach from grumbling in the middle of the night.
Day 5 was exciting because I think that was the day my neck stopped being puffy! For days after I got home, I couldn’t figure out why I looked funny when I looked in the mirror. It’s because my neck was so puffy and swollen, it was almost like I had no jawline. But I think all the fluid and peeing had finally balanced out, so everything (including my feet) looked normal. I had also been keeping an ice pack on my neck for 3 days, basically refilling the ice in the pack when I refilled the ice in my cup. Hooray for a crushed ice feature on the ice maker! Day 5 is also when I got ambitious and tried to eat mac and cheese because I thought it was be mushy enough and I was dying for something that wasn’t sweet. It didn’t really work – I felt like noodles were getting stuck in my throat, even though I was trying to chew them carefully. But, I was also starving, so I was trying to chew and gulp really fast. My tongue and jaw were still sore, so I could only chew a few bites before everything started to ache and I had to give up. I gave up and went back to a smoothie, but I put a banana in it and it made my teeth feel sticky until I brushed them.
Day 6 is when I tried to blend chicken noodle soup (to avoid things feeling stuck in my throat) and learned that even if it doesn’t taste that salty, it may still sting when you try to swallow it. But, I could open my mouth larger to fit a spoon inside, instead of sipping tiny sips of warm salty soup. Apparently, I am not a slow eater normally. You have no idea how frustrating it is to take tiny bites of food and tiny sips of something so you don’t overwork your throat. I felt like it was a race to ingest as many calories as I could before my tongue and jaw got sore from chewing or swallowing. Day 6 is also when I stopped taking Vicodin during the day, though! I still took a dose before I went to sleep and in the middle of the night to try and get as much rest as I could, even though I was only sleeping a couple of hours at a time while sitting up. Ice cold coconut water is still my best friend.
Day 7, I stopped taking Vicodin completely, because my throat felt like just a regular sore throat. Warm tea was a nice change from ice cold beverages, but it made my tongue feel like it was drying out, so I tried to alternate. I also tried to eat tapioca and soft boiled eggs, which was fine swallowing-wise, but I still felt like food was getting stuck in my throat. By now, I’m basically just chugging protein shakes for calories and some semblance of nutrition. The Gatorade still hasn’t been touched. Oh, I did try to eat mashed potatoes and tiny pieces of meatloaf, because it sounded so good, and I basically got through a tablespoon of potatoes and a few bites of meatloaf (you don’t even know how seriously I considered blending it) before I had to give up from a sore and tired tongue.
Day 8 is when I’m actually feeling okay. My throat doesn’t really hurt, unless I try and take a big gulp of something, even if its water. I can open my jaw and mouth completely and move my tongue around. Tooth brushing happens twice a day, with vigorous tongue brushing because gross. I can do things like laundry and vacuuming, but if I’m running around too much I get hot and sweaty, like when I have a cold, so then I’m forced to back off and sit on the couch and watch trashy tv. To rest. I would love to eat something, because I think I could, but I don’t like the feeling of food pieces stuck in my throat, so yay smoothies.
Basically, I have spent a week on the worst diet ever. I’m always starving, I’m tired of drinking my meals, and I’m starting to go stir crazy. I’ve lost 8 pounds (in a week!) and I would love to start shoving donuts in my mouth, but I somehow think that would be a bad idea (or would it?) I really thought I’d be into smoothies all the time, but I’m not. I thought soft boiled eggs would be my salvation (protein, good fats, soft) but they just aren’t soft enough, I guess? I really really want to eat a piece of buttered toast but that just sounds like torture.
This next week is when the scabs (gross) are supposed to fall off, which the Internet tells me is super painful and super disgusting. But, I think once they’re gone I’ll be able to talk more easily (it kind of feels like I’m talking with marbles in my mouth) and I’m hoping it means I’ll be able to eat actual food.
I just read both posts and you completely answered all the questions I had about the why as well as follow up. Sounds horrible and I can’t even possibly imagine what you’re going through every day during your recovery. Kind of interested in what the scabs look like but I’m sure if I do a search in the dark web, I’ll find lots of photos.
I don’t even think you have to the dark web to find photos… plenty of braver people have taken and posted them. I barely even looked in my mouth the whole time!! And, as gross as it sounds, I just kept swallowing because the thought of coughing a scab up was just the worst possible scenario ever.
Luckily, I’m on the mend! Have made it through a bean burrito, sushi, and ravioli!
I looked up photos shortly after your response and found an endless gallery! And yay for solid foods!!
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