Warning: If you are easily queasy you might not want to see the photos of actual tonsils in this post 😀
Edit: Since writing my post, I have included some information on a very useful NTU FYP initiative which is useful and relevant to the post.
School is now back in session! We’ve had an interesting school holidays. We left before school closed (what do they do on the last day of school anyway?) and returned just as the holidays was in full swing, so it feels like we achieved quite a lot. But this holidays we hardly joined any holiday programmes (except for all my Marshall Cavendish workshops), because my 9 year old had to go for a tonsillectomy.
Apparently tonsillectomy is a very common paediatric surgery. Why the need for a tonsillectomy? Well, the boy has been snoring for a while, and sometimes it can be pretty loud. Loud enough for his younger siblings to complain about it. One night I noticed that his breathing was not consistent, and that he seemed to really be struggling to breathe. That was when I decided that we really needed to have him checked. He did not often get sore throats of coughs, although he can often have a very minor niggling cough that lasts for ages.
My main concern was that he might be experiencing sleep apnea, which can’t be good for growing boys. I was also concerned that he might have behavioural problems associated with snoring – feeling sleepy during the day, or having problems with paying attention and focussing in school. Here is a pretty good summary of some of the issues of tonsils in children (however it is not a medial article).
We were recommended by a friend to see an ENT doctor (or otolaryngologist, quite a mouthful isn’t that?) at SGH, so I quickly made an appointment. You can also consult your GP or get referrals from polyclinics to see a specialist at NUH or KKH.
Something must be said for this mother’s intuition because it turns out that the boy has huge tonsils, ripe for the plucking (ha ha).
Although it was not urgent, we scheduled for a surgery as soon as possible, and thankfully it was scheduled in the early part of the June holidays so that he would have time to recover.
A week before the surgery, we had to go for a pre-surgery appointment, to complete paperwork and be briefed on the procedure for the day (what time to show up, etc.), as well as the rough cost estimates. We also met with the anesthetist, who went through the surgery procedures, various risks, etc.
When the day came, we arrived as instructed at 7am and were the first patients at the Admission Centre. We then proceeded to the ward where he was changed and then wheeled to the Operating Theatre. I reluctantly left him at the entrance of the OT, but the nurses were very reassuring, and told us to come back an hour later to wait for further notice. The surgery was uneventful, and as soon as he roused from the General Anesthesia we were allowed to see him, which was probably about 1.5-2 hours after the surgery.
By lunch time we were settled into our room, and the boy was ready to have some porridge for lunch. It was probably that he was still feeling the effects of the anesthesia and painkillers so he was in less discomfort and could eat. Days 3 onwards was more discomfort for him. For the following 4-5 days, he had mostly porridge, but didn’t skip any meals. Apparently children bounce back from surgeries more easily than adults, but then again, this son of mine loves to eat, and I think a little surgery wasn’t going to come between him and a meal 😀
He spent a few days just mumbling and whining when he did talk. Actually I have to admit I quite enjoyed some peace from this chatty boy!! Ooops. It took over a week, almost 10 days before his voice was “normal” again, and we are lucky that he didn’t have any fever. He has never had a propensity for fever, even with vaccinations.
Although SGH sees both adults and children, or maybe because they see fewer children, all the staff especially the nurses were really warm and accommodating. He doesn’t snore now, and I hope that he will be more alert in school. (Edit February 2018: still same old same old, still restless in school. Looks like snoring was unfortunately not the problem and tonsillectomy not the solution for being more attentive in school!! HA!)
About a month later, he has healed well, and all is good!
Edit: February 2018
I recently came across the Guard the Night initiative which is an awareness campaign about Paediatric OSA – obstructive sleep apnea. There is a lot of useful information on their website including how to identify OSA. You can also find them on Facebook.
The Guard the night website encourages parents to have their children tested with a sleep test (that can be done by KKH or NUH). However, I would like to add that you could also visit an ENT as a first measure. For our case, if my son’s problem could not be identified, i.e. if it wasn’t SO obvious that his tonsils were just HUGE, or if he was still snoring after his tonsillectomy, a sleep test might have been the next step. Thankfully he has been doing well since his surgery.