Lisa Fischer

When a Family Member is Sick

It all started with mononucleosis in April of 2018. Then a trip to the otolaryngologist (fancy term for the ears/nose/throat doctor) revealed what we were dreading: the tonsils must come out. The Fischers have been down this path before. Our son had the same nice (but mean to tonsils) doctor rip his tonsils out three years earlier. And that was the Mother Load of surgeries: he had a tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy, septoplasty and whatever term is used to describe polyp clean-out. It caused an 18-pound weight loss and 14 days of pure pain. But he no longer has large tonsils or any of the other issues related to his former ear/nose/throat issues. His tonsils blew up after his bout with mono the year previous. Fast forward to the summer of 2018 when our youngest child had to face the knife for the tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy after her tonsils blew up after mono. But this HAD to be easier right? She wasn't having the other two procedures. Adrian Williamson, III, MD said after her surgery on August 24, "What she had done today was a lot. What your son had was 'a lot a lot.'" So I honestly thought she would sail through this and get back to Dallas where she is employed and taking online college classes.

But no. On Day 5 post-op, she suffered a complication that was life-threatening. She began to hemorrhage likely after a scab came off behind the area that once held the right tonsil. The amount of blood I saw made her look like an accident victim. I called the doctor on call for the practice, and the nice lady who called me back was calm but said in her sweet urgency, "I will meet you at the hospital but you need to go now." It was 9:05 p.m. and I did what any mother would do. I brushed my teeth. I really don't know why that would help in this situation but I brushed my teeth and put on some shoes and she and I got in the car. My husband had just gotten in from a three-day trip and since I was not sure what to expect, I just told him to stay home. Anna Margaret and I were the ones flying down Highway 10 in Little Rock, AR, that night with flashers on running red lights. She was nauseated and light-headed. And I really didn't know what this trip to the ER would entail. Jamie Bizzell, MD met us there promptly and asked Anna Margaret if she had eaten, (the answer was "no, not in five days") but she did have some bone broth when this occurred. And she had half a smoothie at 4:00 p.m. but she hadn't been able to eat. Dr. Bizzell said she was taking her to the OR, and she would check back with me. After I called my besties, they faithfully showed up at the hospital even when I said I was fine-one didn't come but I really think she wanted to. I continued to tell my husband he didn't need to come up there because I still didn't know the gravity of the situation. I thought the doc would cauterize it, and we would come home. Patients leave the surgery center after tonsillectomies so I didn't realize this would be different. Dr. Bizzell came out to the waiting room at 11:00 p.m. and said she cauterized the right tonsil where the bleeding occurred but that the pulsating blood vessel caused enough blood loss for them to pump her stomach. Dr. Bizzell was admitting her for an overnight stay.

Wow. That was close. At this point, I didn't want my husband there because I knew bed space would be limited in her hospital room, and I WANTED THE BED. Now mind you, it is no five-star accommodations at a hospital but nevertheless, there was at least a bed where I could sleep by her side. She was discharged the next morning at 11:30 a.m. but we were told that her recovery clock just started over. What is typically a 10-14 day recovery (remember she was just on day five), she had to start it all over because that was another surgery. Could this happen again? Well, yes, but likely won't. But she still had to stay out of harm's way and sadly, she couldn't go back to Dallas to her apartment and her roommate and her life.

The crazy thing is she had asked her brother to drive to Little Rock from Baton Rouge and take her to Dallas for the weekend, before the medical crisis occurred. I was very cautious about this idea. Dr. Williamson made it clear that risk of hemorrhaging is for patients who are on days 7-10 which she wanted to travel on day 8. Her brother was driving to Dallas to stay with her for the weekend because his beloved LSU Tigers were playing in Dallas Sunday night. I wasn't sure why, but I did not have a peace about her going. Dr. Williamson made it clear that he didn't want her to travel because of the risk. Are there ENTs in Dallas who could have taken care of this? Absolutely. But there are a lot of small towns between Little Rock and Dallas that couldn't. And time was of the essence in this situation.

Ya know, I got to thinking about families who have chronically ill relatives and my heart hurts for them. Getting up every four hours to give her pain medicine is very temporary. There are so many people who have this schedule for years. The sacrifices you all make for your families is commendable and a thankless job.

Bottom line: tonsillectomy is more serious than you might think. And even though she wasn't overdoing it (in fact, she had done nothing those first five days but rest), there is still a 1 in 100 chance that this could happen. And this a complication you don't want to happen. So simma down you people who want to do anything after a tonsillectomy. Take your medicine and hush. You don't want me brushing my teeth and putting on my shoes to take you to the emergency room.