Whenever someone tells me their child is getting their tonsils taken out, I cringe. If they ask, I tell them our story.
Back in 2009, Jaycee's cardiologist noticed she had some high pulmonary pressures. "This could be caused from sleep apnea. Has she ever had a sleep study?"
She hadn't but one was scheduled soon afterwards. That first sleep study was torture for me, her, and the sleep lab technician but she did get enough hours of sleep recorded in order for a determination to be made.
Sure enough, she had obstructive sleep apnea.
Since her tonsils were so large that they were "kissing," it was no surprise that her Ear Nose & Throat doctor (ENT) wanted to perform a tonsil and adenoidectomy. This is a fairly common issue with Down syndrome. The surgery was discussed and explained. A surgery was scheduled.
Prior to the surgery, I was nervous. Jaycee was 3 years old. She had a high pain tolerance and wasn't able to communicate pain well. She was a poor drinker on a good day. I had to often sit with Jaycee and make her drink from a soft top sippy cup a few times a day much like you do a baby. After the surgery, she would need to stay hydrated and I feared this would be hard. I was also in my last trimester of my pregnancy, so that probably contributed to some of my pre-surgery anxiety.
The surgery date came. Things were removed in the hope that her sleep apnea would be cured. I believe she spent a night in the hospital before being discharged home. The recovery at home was brutal. She refused to eat or drink. I took syringes of liquid and pleaded with her to drink a teaspoon or less every hour. I tried every drink and liquid I could think of. There were moments when I was really successfully, but mainly I was not. She started getting dehydrated. I think we went to the emergency room twice, once for fluids and once for a stronger pain medication.
About 10 days after her surgery, we were trying to get Jaycee to bed. She kept getting up and opening her door. I finally got really frustrated and went to her room determined to get her to sleep. When I opened the door, there was blood on Jaycee, the wall, her carpet. It looked like a crime scene. We were warned prior to the surgery that a post-surgical hemorrhage rarely happens but if it does, it can be deadly. Go to the emergency room immediately. I remember those words of warning.
We quickly loaded her in the car and drove to the nearest emergency room. Fortunately, Jaycee's bleeding stopped spontaneously before we got to the hospital. That was a blessing! As a result of the stress and panic, I started having contractions. I was 37 weeks pregnant and soon became concerned that I was going to be in a hospital bed too. We spent all night in the emergency room waiting to be admitted for a full 24 hour observation. Thankfully, there was no more bleeding. In fact, she finally started eating and drinking. It seemed that she was finally recovering from the surgery.
We took Jaycee home, I was exhausted and still having contractions. A few hours after we got home from the hospital, we decided to take me to my hospital. The next day, Elijah came into the world. So the story of Jaycee's tonsillectomy is coincidentally the beginning of Elijah's birth story.
And in the end.... She had a follow up sleep study to make sure the surgery "cured" her obstructive sleep apnea. Surprisingly, she still had obstructive sleep apnea and at 3.5 years old, Jaycee started using a bi-pap machine.
When I tell my story, I don't want people to be afraid or to talk them out of it. But, I try to remind them that sometimes things go wrong, that the recovery may not be "routine," and the result may not be what you expect.