Tonsillectomies are not just routine operations anymore

Sorry for the hiatus, but I am finally feeling better now. I have returned to my normal activities-ish. I now only have a plaster over the surgery site and wear a wrist splint every now and then. Thankfully, my recovery was quick! I promise to write about the surgery and put photos ASAP!

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I am currently on my ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) placement, now on my final week. Last week due to my newly operated arm I missed more than half the week. But I’m bouncing back now!

Yesterday I attended my first ENT operation (tonsillectomy) ever. This is the first time I’ve attended a surgery for almost a year, and almost two weeks after my own surgery. Suddenly, after being newly operated on myself, my attitude towards operations have changed. It really is different when you’ve been on the other side of healthcare.

Despite tonsillectomies being routine, a range of new thoughts popped up in my head that I’ve never thought about before during operations. Thoughts such as:

  • I wonder what the patient is dreaming about right now. Are they dreaming?
  • Would they remember being woken up and leaving the operation room?
  • How would they react now that their tonsils are gone?
  • How long will their pain last?
  • I wonder if they’d be able to go back to work/school with their throat – sooo painful…

I no longer only think about the long term effects of the surgery, but how the patient will feel right after the operation. I was there too. You enter the hospital with full control of your body and feeling okay. Then you go to sleep, and all of a sudden, you wake up and everything has changed.  

After my operation, I was in pain. I was in such excruciating pain in my arm, that I was dependent on strong opioids such as oxycodone and morphine. I remember how debilitating it was, and how one was so helpless and dependent on others. The pain took over one, and all one can do is wait until it passes – or until the opioids knock you out. But then you wake up several times in the night with the pain needing more. Then you take more painkillers and can finally fall asleep again…

When I see a patient get operated now, I can relate. I can relate to their fear, anxiety, and sympathise for the pain they will undergo post-op. I recall how it was for me and realise, even though this is one of the hundreds of routine tonsillectomies done, the bi-product of the operation itself is the same. All patients will experience a change in their daily lives, with its impact highly underestimated in the beginning. That was definitely the case for me anyway. Of course I think like myself too, all patients are willing to undergo it. Patients have so much hope and trust in the treatment, that its bi-products is long overweighed by its benefits.

After being a patient myself, I understand now why patients feel the way that they do before an operation – even one as common as a tonsillectomy. One is scared for the drastic change that is about to happen – both the good and the bad. One is scared because there is nothing one can do but accept the change, and be patient.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BFEPgcpoN6s/?taken-by=fileea

If I didn’t choose Oncology I would’ve probably chosen Infectious Diseases

During the first week of my Infectious Diseases placement, I recall attending a teaching session by one of the specialists. With much enthusiasm she said: “All diseases start with an infection!” I pondered about that statement for a while and realised that maybe she has a point.

In cases like rheumatic fever leading to heart problems etc later on in life, or H pylori infections leading to gastric ulcers that could eventually lead to cancer, maybe there is truth to her statement.

Infections occur in all systems, and has a multiple-system effect. They don’t always present themselves in the same pattern either. By giving the right antibiotic/antiviral etc among the masses available, you can save a life. Pretty exciting indeed.

During my placement, I met several patients who were in severe sepsis (basically dying) one day, seemed unaffected the next. Magic. One patient around my age came in and was barely able to open his eyes and breathe (he was breathing about >30 breaths per minute). He was losing his breath whilst talking to me. We administered antibiotics and when I visited him the next day, he was back to normal. Magic.

Perhaps my mom had a point when she was encouraging me to pursue Infectious Diseases as a specialty. She has always spoken highly of the specialty, ever since she worked very closely with them as a clinical epidemiologist. I recall the days when mom would travel to Vietnam with the WHO to help eradicate malaria. Perhaps it is due to my early exposure to the specialty that I took a natural interest to infectious diseases. Or perhaps it’s actually in the blood.

Nevertheless, after these two weeks at the Infectious Diseases department, my commitment to oncology is still as strong as it has always been. But my respect and interest for the specialty has definitely grown.

I maybe won’t become an Infectious Diseases specialist in the future, but if there’s someone I would entrust to save the lives of the masses, I would definitely turn to an Infectious Diseases specialist to save the world.happy dancing cats