Tag Archives: tonsils

Tonsil Tales

Back in the good ole days, or so I remember being told, tonsils were removed as often as wisdom teeth, as a matter of course, as an extraneous appendage we no longer needed. I don’t know if that’s true or not but I was scheduled to have my tonsils out at age six. However, my family, always running on the dysfunction track, was derailed the day I was supposed to go in for surgery. My parents were fighting and I never did get my tonsils out for a very very long time.

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I spent my childhood and teen years getting colds like every other child but I as often got tonsilitis, involving very painful and swollen throat and bouts of antibiotics. By my teen years I averaged four colds/tonsilitis episodes a year. Some of the symptoms can be headache, fever, cough, trouble swallowing, sore throat and chills.  I think I was 18 or 19 when I started to noticed it felt odd when I swallowed, like something was stuck in my throat. When I opened my mouth wide, I could see small lumps of white at the back of my throat that sometimes I could remove with a finger. Basically food was getting caught in the holes in my tonsils. This did nothing for my breath either.

Finally, in art college the tonsillitis got so bad that even my tongue was swollen. I had cankers all over my gums and I couldn’t really eat a thing. Of course I’d let it get too bad, being a student, trying to finish projects and not getting enough sleep. So eventually I went in to the school clinic, telling them I had tonsillitis. They told me, you don’t know that. We’ll take a look. And they took a look and said, you have tonsillitis; why did you take so long?

More antibiotics but that finally decided it for me. I made an appointment to see my family doctor, the one I had had since I was about ten, who had seen me go through bouts of this over the years. I mentioned the holes and the food sticking in them. My doctor didn’t even look in my throat but told me it was nerves. I said it absolutely was not. I’m not a nervous person. Then he told me that lots of people got this. I said, they do? It was this incident of incompetence, plus the one where my doctor told me I didn’t clean myself properly when I went to him about a bladder infection, that I tossed him by the wayside and went to a new doctor. That doctor couldn’t see much in my throat but he sent me to a specialist. The specialist took less than a minute to look at my tonsils and say, “You have holes in your tonsils. When do you want them out?”

And so, at the tender age of 22 I had my tonsils out. And something I realized once I healed from the surgery was that I had never ever been able to swallow correctly. My throat had always been swollen. If I’d had my tonsils out at six, like I was supposed to, I would have missed a lot less school as a kid and not been subjected to so many antibiotics. Luckily I didn’t take the incompetent advice of a doctor who should have retired, and I sought out another opinion. I don’t  miss those tonsils at all.

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Quacks, Doctors and Outmoded Thinking

I had a short discussion today with a naturopathic doctor who pointed out that doctors are scientists and as scientists they should always be exploring, knowing that our knowledge base can change. We were talking about books from the 70s and how the information on nutrition had changed a great deal. However there are doctors who make their practice religion as this person said.

And he’s correct. Those that learned one thing and have never changed it, challenged it or sought to find new information on it have indeed moved the medical sciences into the realm of their unchanging belief and tradition.

I had a doctor like this. He was our family doctor and as a child I suffered from constant tonsillitis. I’d get about four infections a year, and had colds all the time. When I was about eight I was scheduled to have my tonsils out but my parents, whose relationship was always bad, had a huge fight and the surgery was never rescheduled.

I continued through teenagerhood, suffering the same problem. By the time I was nineteen and in art college I had such a bad bout of tonsillitis that I couldn’t talk, my tongue was swollen and I had cankers all over the inside of my mouth, which negated eating too. I went to the college doctor and said I had tonsillitis. They didn’t believe me (because I wasn’t a medical professional) but scheduled me in. Of course the doctor took one look and said why didn’t you come sooner? Well, I was a student of course, working on projects with no time and not getting the right amount of sleep.

Through those early childhood years of tonsils being tortured, they actually grew holes, complicating things and making those colds linger. It got so bad that I could feel them when I swallowed because food would get stuck in the holes. I know, gross. Bad breath and infections. When I opened my mouth and looked in the mirror I could see a few of these holes and the white bits in them.

So I went to my doctor, my childhood doctor who knew my history, and told him the problem. He didn’t even look in my throat but said it was nerves. I’ve never been a particularly high-strung or nervous person and I said outright, It’s not nerves. Then he told me that all sorts of people got that. I was younger and politer but I left and went to another doctor, who took a look and couldn’t see anything but sent me to a throat specialist. He took a two-second look and said, when do you want to be scheduled for surgery?

That first doctor had not only lost his perspective but presumed he knew everything without looking at his patients. He did the same thing when I said I had a bladder infection and didn’t take a urine sample but told me I didn’t wash myself properly. WTF? That was the complete last straw. He should have been dropped by the profession and my mother surmised that he had grown to tired to practice properly. In some ways it’s too bad it’s so difficult to sue doctors in Canada.

But most of all this guy was working on the tenets of his medical religion, going on the faith of what he knew and no longer even investigating the physical condition of his patients. Or as my current doctor put it, someone has to graduate at the bottom of the class and those people practice medicine too. Go figure.

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