tonsils and unicorns, in that order
Doctor Z. moves his stethoscope along Col’s back and asks him to take a deep breath. He listens to Col’s breathing while Rose prattles on about whether or not unicorns are invisible. The pediatrician looks at me and winces, “doesn’t sound good.”
“What do you hear?”
“Crackles and wheezing.”
“But has anyone ever seen one Mama, or are they invisible, like dinosaurs?” Rose asks.
“Walking pneumonia. We’ll get him some antibiotics for that. Open your mouth for me Col.”
This will be Col’s fourth round of antibiotics this winter. They’re like the punchline to every cough Col’s ever had. We start each illness all Pollyanna-like, administering our herbal lung-tonics like medicinal kisses. “I think the herbs are really working,” one of us will comment to the other, hope flanking our shoulders like a wreath of peace doves. Even the nebulizer treatments we do at the first sign of congestion seem like one of Ma Ingalls’ home remedies compared to the chalky, pink liquid that kills life.
“Sometimes I have dreams about unicorns,” Rose whispers happily.
“Stick out your tongue Col. Oh wow,” the doctor chuckles, “those are some huge tonsils. Wow.”
I too used to awe pediatricians with my elephantine tonsils.
Dr Z. asks if Col snores. He does.
“Does it sound like this?” The doctor imitates a rhythmic snoring, like an ocean wave rolling out and then receding. “Or this?” He imitates that same wave rushing to shore then suddenly stopping. Starting then stopping. “That is the sound of sleep apnea,” the doctor explains, “when someone stops breathing for short periods while sleeping.”
“I think I’ve heard both.” I answer.
Dr Z. writes out a referral to an ear, nose, throat specialist, because we “might want to think about having Col’s tonsils removed.”
More information is shared. Like, how bacteria can hide out on enlarged, scarred tonsils, getting knocked back for awhile by antibiotics and proliferating again, requiring more and more antibiotics. Also, because growth hormone is released at night, if a child is woken up by their own apnea many times a night, this can inhibit normal growth. Kids with sleep apnea tend to be more tired than average.
We’ve talked about Col’s size here before. And I admit, the notion that there’s an answer to his short stature and slow growth is a little like staring at a chocolate eclair from outside the shop window. You can have this, for $2.99 and a routine surgery. Also, it’s not unusual for Col to require 4-6 rounds of antibiotics a year which sounds absurd, I know. But Dan and I become so desperate to clear up the rattly lung sounds and gaspy coughs, that after we’ve blown through all our medicinal kisses, we’re relieved to march off to the pharmacy with our script for zithromax. Also, the sleepiness? Col would nap every day if he could. I’ve always attributed this to him taking more breaths/minute at our high altitude. But he napped every day during our 3 weeks at sea level over Christmas break.
I kind of thought tonsillectomies had gone the way of bloodletting, but I’ve since learned that they’re the most common surgery performed on children. Our appointment with the otolaryngologist is in 2 weeks; until then, I’m turning to ye olde internet community. What experience do you have with enlarged tonsils, tonsillectomies, and unicorns?