Under The Knife (The Story Of My Tonsilectomy)
I remember when I was a child and I was confined in the hospital. My aunt rushed me to the emergency room after I started feeling pain at the side of my stomach. The doctors diagnosed me as a candidate for an appendectomy. I was put on dextrose and prepped for the operation. They prohibited me from eating anything, although I snuck an occasional cracker when no one was looking. Of course that only made things worse. When they found out, the nurses simply reset my fasting time back to zero, rendering useless the previous hours I have spent in hunger.After almost two days of being starved, my dad arrived and talked to the doctor. He got into an argument and decided to check me out of the hospital, convinced I was in no need for any kind of operation. That proved to be a wise decision on my father’s part. I still have my appendix now and it never did pose any kind of problem to my health after that.
I haven’t been confined to the hospital since then. Until recently.
For quite some time, nights spent drinking and videoke-ing with my friends were capped by attacks of the flu. I’ve always believed it resulted from the bad combination of alcohol and my amateur singing. By the end of these parties, my throat would always be left feeling as if it’s been mercilessly scratched. I took it as a tell tale sign of my flawed singing style, nothing more.
a few months ago, after drinking all night with my friends, I fell ill once again. I had a fever and my throat felt sore. I figured it was another bout with the flu. Thanks to an sms consultation with my doctor-friend (thanks, Ayees!), I got suggestions for medicine that could help. After a few days though, I had yet to fully recover. That’s when I decided to go to St. Luke’s Medical Center to have my throat personally checked.(CRINGE ALERT HENCEFORTH!)
Dr. Jurilla, my doctor, checked my ears, nose and mouth. He said my pharynx was swollen and there was pus behind my left tonsil. He suspected that its recurrence was because of an over-abundance of streptococci bacteria in my throat. He diagnosed me with chronic pharyngitis then gave me a prescription for antibiotics and tips for prevent
ion. The pain in my throat subsided after a week of medication, but just a little over a week after, I felt pain developing in my throat once again.When I went went back to
Dr. Jurilla for another check up, he was surprised, saying that the antibiotics should’ve kept me immuned from pharyngitis for another month. The fact that it recurred this soon could mean that the bacteria may not only be in my throat but in my bloodstream as well. He gave me a prescription for a week’s worth of stronger antibiotics and requested for some blood tests.
Upon showing him the results a week after, his suspicions were confirmed. He said the CBC results were okay, but that there was indeed an extraordinarily high presence of streptococci in my blood. He suggested I seriously consider a tonsilectomy. Otherwise, I should expect continued pharyngitis attacks. Worse, it made me susceptible to urinary tract infections and rheumatic heart diseases. A particular vacation in Boracay back in 2003 suddenly came to mind. I was with my high school classmates when I started having problems peeing. If not for the canabis they brought, I don’t think I would’ve survived. (The urinary tract problem didn’t stop me from going on the banana boat, by the way. Fun before health!)
My mom wanted a second opinon on the matter, but I didn’t need any more convincing. I got myself checked in at St. Luke’s on April 20, a Friday. Sometime in the afternoon, a seminarian came over to pray with me. He assured me that someone was diligently, vigilantly offering prayers for me. He kept asking if I was nervous, and I said I wasn’t. That made me stop and reevaluate my emotions, though. I honestly thought it was not big deal prior to that, but when a priest-to-be starts volunteering words of comfort, you can’t help but think whether you should actually be worried.
Kai, Hiyas and Chrissie visited me that evening though it didn’t look like there was anything wrong with me. Norman dropped by, too. They stayed till around midnight, just before the nurses put me on dextrose and asked me to fast on both solids and liquids.
The following morning, they woke me up at 8AM, made me strip naked under my patient’s gown, and brought me to the operating room. Some nurses prepped me, checking my temperature, blood pressure and pulse rate, and asking me questions about possible allergies, among others. The anaesthesiologist came over and assured me I wouldn’t feel anything because of the general anaesthesia.
After waiting for about an hour, they took me to the the room where the tonsilectomy was to be performed. The anaesthesiologist inserted a long stick through my nostrils. He mentioned how there seemed to be an obstruction inside, and I told him about my being diagnosed with a deviated septum. He then sprayed something to decongest my nasal passages and airway. Finally, they told me they’re already putting me under general anaesthesia and put a mask on me. They asked me if I felt any kind of pain. There was a pinching sensation in my left arm, so I started pointing at it with my right hand…Then I felt cold, and I was shivering uncontrollably. I heard faint sounds. Kind, reassuring voices. I realized the voices were talking to me. “Mr. de la Torre… Okay na po! Tapos na…”
I opened my eyes and saw that I was back in the prep room. I had an oxygen mask on, and my throat felt sore. I had a difficult time breathing. But it was the shivering that affected me the most. One of the women attending to me brought heat pads and put it under me to help with the cold.They were right. I didn’t feel a thing. It was like a blip in time. Complete, total black out. I was in a dreamless sleep.
Back in the prep room, I caught up with the trauma my throat underwent. I had a difficult time breathing. I couldn’t swallow my own saliva, which had started accumulating in my throat making it difficult for me to breathe. I tried to cough it out, but any kind of pressure on my throat was unbearable. It was painful, uncomfortable and frustrating. Not even the oxygen mask was helping me breathe anymore. I was close to choking, so I forced myself to expel the thick liquid in my throat. The nurse gave me tissue. When I spat on it, it was full of blood. It wasn’t just saliva after all.
The next two days was full of pain, blood-spitting and extreme hunger. I had to cough out the blood that accumulated in my throat at least once every hour if I were to breathe easily. That meant I had to endure excruciating pain every time. Meanwhile, the doctor allowed me to eat vanilla ice cream a few hours after the operation, but even that wasn’t smooth or cold enough for the wound in my throat. I eventually felt okay enough to eat the cold treat, but it did nothing for my hunger. If it werent for the dextrose, I would’ve probably died of malnourishment. I also couldn’t speak as loud as before. I had separate visits from Jean and Chris, and Joni and Norman, and they all had to strain to understand what I said.
A priest came to give me communion the following day, Sunday. Oh, how I prayed to God to take away the pain!
I checked out two days after the operation, on a Monday morning. While recovering at home, I subsisted on a diet of ice cream, porridge and soups. I never felt hungrier in my life.
At least it’s almost over now. It didn’t seem to affect my voice. My uvula has reduced from its swollen size. I say it’s almostover because my sense of taste remains distorted. Except when I’m eating something very sweet, everything I eat tastes like there’s a missing ingredient. Nothing tastes like it should. Dr. Jurilla says everything will be back to normal in three months.***
When I went back to my doctor for a follow up consultation, he said I was doing okay. He gladly told me that the results from the biopsy showed that the infection in my tonsils wasn’t cancerous. I didn’t even know I was at risk for cancer. It was only then that I realized that despite the simplicity of the operation, it was, in fact, a big deal. And to think I told my Mom I wouldn’t mind if she went home and just left me with our helper. I’m glad she insisted on staying. Her exact words were, “Aba, e di na ‘ko aalis dito!”
When I was a child and my dad fought with my doctor for almost giving me an appendectomy, I felt how protective he was of me. This time, my visit to the hospital became a rare bonding opportunity for me and my mom. Having spent most of her life in Italy, this was the first time my Mom got to accompany me in my hospital stay. And I did have a fair share of hospital visits growing up. My mom stayed with me throughout. She even endured sleeping on the small, barely-cushioned bench beside my bed. She later told me that after I said that I was sure I wanted the operation, she arranged for the operation to be held while she was in the country. My Mom wanted to be beside me when I went under the knife.
Despite everything I felt and went through, I actually enjoyed that episode of my life. I never really thought I’d hear me self say that, but I really did. After all, it’s always good to feel loved and cared for by people you value.