Tonsillectomy and my Three Year Old

Last night we spent ages going through old videos on the laptop, watching clips of Sydney as a baby – learning to crawl and smashing food into her face and then starting to talk, walk and sing. A couple of things really struck me. Firstly, how similar Sydney was as a baby to how Morgan is now. They have the same cheekiness and smile – it is unbelievable how alike they look! Secondly though, the thing that really hit me was Sydney’s voice. How deep her voice was; and how nasally.

Around six months ago, Sydney had her tonsils removed. It wasn’t as if she had ever had tonsillitis, but she used to snore really loudly! I used to compare her snore to that of a drunken, over-weight man or a freight train. I am not joking, it was really very loud – it used to get picked up on the monitor in her room and we could hear it from our bedroom.

It only really got worse about a year ago and only really became apparent when we went to Peppa Pig World and stayed in a hotel with us all sharing a room. I was heavily pregnant anyway, and not used to getting the best sleep at the time – but sharing a room with Sydney was shocking. I don’t remember sleeping at all that night as both Sydney and Jack were snoring so loudly.

It actually, made me really worried as at times she sounded like she was gasping for breath. I started googling what it could be on my phone and got even more freaked out. I even recorded it on my phone to play to Jack the next morning, and to play to the doctor.

I made an appointment as soon as we got home from the time away and the doctor took it seriously, which worried me even more. He asked whether she had ever stopped breathing at night, and I didn’t know – how would I know? I felt sick. I do know that she used to always set of the Angel Care Monitor for no reason when she was first born. Was that her stopping breathing?

By the end of the week, we already had a letter through from the hospital with an appointment date to see an ENT consultant.

When we went for the appointment, I didn’t know what to expect. I thought that it could be enlarged tonsils that were the culprit, but equally, I didn’t know if it could be something more sinister.

When we first arrive at the hospital, Sydney had to do a hearing test and then we went to meet with the consultant. I told him what had been happening and he took a look down Sydney’s throat. He audibly exclaimed at how large her tonsils were. He said she had been lucky not to have been bothered by them so far, but that they would cause her problems in the future. He said that, without a doubt, they were the cause of her snoring. He also asked about episodes of sleep apnea but we said that we weren’t aware of any. He said that his recommendation was for the tonsils to be removed, and for the adenoids to be taken out at the same time.

I was a bit upset as I was told it would be an operation, under general anesthetic, and a painful recovery period with two weeks off from nursery. I did agree with both Jack and the consultant, however, that it would be better for her to have the operation at three when she wouldn’t remember it, versus later on in her life. I signed the consent form.

Before we even left the hospital, we were given a date for Sydney’s operation and it was only around three weeks after consultation. It made me anxious. It didn’t feel like there was enough time for me to get used to the idea, let alone for me to try and explain to Sydney what was going to happen. She was only just three and I didn’t know how much she would be able to understand.

The staff at the hospital were amazing. They gave Sydney a colouring book which explained all the processes of the operation and what was going to happen. On top of that, I bought a book called “Goodbye Tonsils”, as well as several general books about going to hospital and having operations.

From the moment we got home from the consultation, I started to talk to her about her having her tonsils removed – that she would be going to hospital, that her bunny could go, that Mummy would be going with her and that when we got home she would be able to watch lots of television and be able to eat lots of ice-cream.

She was genuinely excited about it! The thing she was excited about the most was the promise of ice-cream of course. We read the hospital books frequently over the next few weeks and she coloured in the book she’d been given. She started to understand that she was having her tonsils removed so that she wouldn’t snore anymore. She understood that it might hurt afterwards but she would be able to have Calpol.

The day of the operation came round quickly. I had been called by the hospital about a week before to talk through what would happen. I knew Sydney needed to come along in her pajamas and I knew all the things she needed to pack. They asked me what poster she would like to have put up in her room and said she was likely to be in for the whole of the day. I felt really, really nervous about it and the night before I found it really difficult to sleep. Jack kept asking me if I wanted him to go with her instead, but as her Mum, I somehow felt like it was my duty to go with her, even though it was going to be hard.

Jack dropped us at the hospital at about 7am and we were quickly shown to Sydney’s own room with a Minnie Mouse poster on the wall. We unpacked her clothes into the wardrobe and I put a present that we’d bought her on the side that I told her she would be able to open afterwards.

The nurse took Sydney to be weighed and measured and she then had some “magic cream” put onto her hands in the shape of a cat. This was to numb her hands so that they would be able to put the canula in without her feeling it. At each moment, the nurses were brilliant with her and me.

Sydney was so brave and so calm. I felt sick inside but on the outside I was smiley and chatty and doing my best to not let Sydney feel that there would be a reason for her to feel nervous.

We went into the playroom that they had there and Sydney pottered around playing with things and looking at things. After about forty-five minutes we were called to go to the operating theatre. Sydney picked up all three of her bunnies and practically ran down the corridor with the nurse. My stomach was in my throat.

We were the first on the list because Sydney was the youngest being seen that day. There were due to be six children, but two had cancelled that morning as they had woken up with chicken pox. I had really thought that might happen to us, as Sydney hasn’t had chicken pox yet.

When we got to the operating theatre, everyone was waiting for us. We went straight into the anesthetic room which was a bit frightening. It was the first time Sydney looked scared and when she was asked to get onto the chair she looked at me to make sure that things were going to be ok. The nurse who was with us tried to distract Sydney by blowing bubbles, whilst a doctor quickly got a canula into her hand. No matter how much distracting the nurse did, Sydney watched everything the man was doing with her hand. She looked so small and the canula looked huge in her hand. They advised me that she would suddenly fall back and I would need to help catch her head. I didn’t expect it all to happen so quickly, I thought it would be quite a slow process but within seconds Sydney’s eyes closed and she slumped back. It was terrifying and I will absolutely never, ever forget it. I was then rushed out of the room and the nurse said she would walk me back. I started crying. I was so anxious for her; not knowing if she would be ok. I also had the fear that she wouldn’t wake up. Once I got back to her room, I called Jack to let him know what was happening. I think it must have been harder for Jack as he was just on the end of the phone; he was waiting for news from me the whole time. Time must have gone slowly for him as well as it did for me. I tried to keep busy and made myself a drink, but otherwise just sat in the room waiting for news of Sydney and when it was over and whether it had gone well.

The whole operation only lasted about forty-five minutes and the nurse who came to get me told me things had gone well. She warned me that Sydney might be crying or freaking out when she came round, but when I got to her she was sound asleep. She looked exactly the same – but she had some scratches around her mouth from the clamp. Her bunnies had also been through the wars as they were all bandaged up!


Sydney was fine when she came round – she didn’t cry or make a fuss at all, she just looked tired and dozy. She stayed on the bed and was wheeled back her room and I carried her into her bed and snuggled in with her. The canula needed to stay in her hand for six hours whilst they monitored her. It needed to stay in in case she needed to go back into theatre. Apparently the first risk of a large amount of bleeding is within the first few hours.

I thought Sydney might be tired and want to sleep, but she was quite keen to watch TV and open her present and for me to Facetime Jack so she could see him and Morgan. It wasn’t what I expected at all. Within only a few minutes she asked to eat something and the nurse bought her a drink and an ice lolly.


Although she was definitely not herself, she wasn’t crying or in a gross amount of pain like I expected her to be. She managed to eat half a sandwich and a packet of crisps within an hour, which I was really not expecting her to do and the nurses were all quite surprised as well.

The nurses kept trying to encourage Sydney to sleep but she was desperate to get into the playroom again. She got upset because she was told she needed to rest and when her blood pressure started to go up, we were told we absolutely needed to keep her in bed. We chose a DVD from the list to watch in her room.

Sydney had several doses of calpol, and checks and a visit from the consultant who said things had gone well but warned she would feel ill for the first ten days of the recovery period, and would only then get better.

At about 3pm we were told we could go home.

Sydney was so excited to see Jack and ran into his arms as we left the hospital door.

She looked very, very pale but in herself was ok. Once we got home, we set her up on the sofa and had got her a cake with goodbye tonsils on it (the girl in a book we had read to her had had one so we didn’t have a choice really!), we also got her a scooter with a helium balloon attached.


The first couple of days were ok. I say ok, they were bad, but they weren’t as bad as I had feared. She lay on the sofa each day – we weren’t allowed visitors in case she picked up anything, and she ran out of energy quickly. She couldn’t manage large meals, so picked on things throughout the day and woke frequently at night crying. She had to have calpol and nurofen every few hours and if I was even slightly late with a dose, she would be in pain. She handled it well. She barely ate anything sensible – she snacked on whatever she could manage and I pretty much just let her, as I was glad she was eating something.

Days five – six were the worst. The scabs at the back of her throat looked yellow and were itching her and at one point they were hanging off and making her cough. At a low point, she sat in the bath eating crisps, as it was only thing we could think to do to help her. She was still barely eating any normal food and was still waking in pain in the night when the medicine had worn off. It was incredible tiring.

After the scabs had come off (I think she must have swallowed them!), things really improved. Sydney started sleeping better at night, and had more energy. In the second week I had arranged for her friends to come round for an hour each day – a different friend each day for an hour. It really helped break up the time and gave Sydney something to look forward to, even though it really wore her out.


Throughout this whole time Sydney was still having regular does of calpol and nurofen. During that time we went through bottles of the stuff. The consultant was absolute right though, come day ten, there was a miraculous transformation and she went from being an ill child, to one who was much, much better.

Her voice was very high pitched at first after her operation, but after a few weeks leveled out a bit. The nasal-ness and the deep voice were gone though and she sounded and still sounds a lot girlier!

The consultant told us that we’d find that Sydney would have more energy, be less tired, would have better levels of concentration and might have a growth spurt.

All of these things have been true. She has, not only, got a different voice – but her hair has grown loads and is quite long now; she is less tired and has shot up in height. It’s been incredible.

We often wonder about how things would have been if we hadn’t taken her to the doctor, or been referred. I often wonder whether her tonsils being removed has changed the course of her life. If we hadn’t, would she have suffered with tonsillitis? Would she have been picked on because of her voice? Would she have found it tricky to concentrate at school?

It was a very painful thing for her to go through and for us as a family to see her in so much pain was hard, but, she was incredible brave and I was unimaginably proud of her. It was definitely the right thing to do.

Going through the whole thing has helped Sydney understand pain and how amazing doctors and nurses are. She frequently talks about the hospital and how brave she was. When she had her pre-school injections a few weeks ago, saying it would be nothing compared to her tonsils being removed, really helped her as she didn’t cry or fuss or even make sound. She wanted to be brave.

The whole experience has definitely had an impact on all of us in a lot of different ways.


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