Open wide and say 'Awww...'

I had my tonsils removed when I was a youngster. Tonsil removal was a fairly common procedure for kids during the 60s, but it fell out of favor soon after. Seems being a major operation requiring general anesthesia was a little off-putting for some ... and a lot dangerous for others.

When I became a mom, I didn't think much about tonsils. Until Megan, that is. Firstborn Brianna had no breathing difficulties; Megan was another story. By the time Megan reached elementary school, she had sinus issues, adenoid issues, tonsil issues, all so bad that her roommate at the time — Andrea — complained that Megan kept her awake at night because, "she sounds like the iron!" Apparently Megan's breathing sounded eerily similar to steam leaving the iron as clothes were de-wrinkled.

For that reason, along with many other more serious and valid reasons, Megan's adenoids and tonsils were removed. I was nervous about having my little girl put under, but it was necessary if I wanted her to breathe. And I did. And it was successful: Megan could breathe, Andrea no longer had to put up with night-time steam sounds.

Then Andrea started having tonsil issues of her own, primarily tonsillitis on a regular basis. Yet her doctor didn't think she met the criteria for having the tonsils removed, and I didn't push the issue. My paranoia as a mother was moving into high gear, and I'd been reading more and more about the dangers of tonsil removal. Yes, despite the successful surgery on myself and Megan — and literally millions of others between my surgery and hers — I figured the odds would now be against us if I persisted and requested another of my babies undergo the procedure.

To this day, Andrea still gets tonsillitis more often than the average bear. And she growls at me about it more often — and more loudly — than the average bear. Thing is, I'm even more against tonsil removal for her now that she's an adult than I was when she was a child because studies have proven adults have far more life-threatening problems with tonsil removal than children do. I screwed up by not having Andie's tonsils removed, but I figure it's too late now. Scary thing is, as an adult, she can get them out any time she chooses. And it seems she's one bout of tonsillitis away from so choosing.

Those are my tonsil tales as a child and as a mother. Now it seems that as a grandmother, there's a new chapter to add.

Bubby has tonsil issues ... big time. The poor kid, whose not yet three years old, has had more bouts of strep throat than most kids have their entire childhood — five in the last year, four of which have been just since Christmas. He's a strep factory, apparently, or at least a strep carrier, the pediatrician tells Megan. When Bubby's in the throes of a strep infection, my poor grandbaby's tonsils are so swollen you can't see past them to his throat. More importantly, he can't breathe past them. Many nights Megan has put her baby to bed worrying whether he'd be able to breathe through til morning, all because of the insane size of his tonsils.

So she wants them removed. And the pediatrician has referred her to an ENT to discuss the possiblity. And I'm conflicted as cuss about the whole thing. Fortunately, as the grandma, I don't have to be the one making the decision. I've read too many horror stories about tonsil removal, stories I won't share with Megan ... because she does have to make the decision.

Yes, I'm a paranoid mother, which has resulted in me being a paranoid grandmother. But I'm working at keeping my paranoia to myself, mostly by considering an article I wrote several years ago for the parenting publication I was then editor of. It was about the resurgence of tonsil removal and the new — safer! — methods for performing the surgery, with lasers rather than scalpels. One thing that stands out in my mind about the article is that the ENT I interviewed said that not only does tonsil removal help children physically, it helps those suffering tonsil problems with their behavioral issues, too. Little ones who can't sleep and can't breathe well can be a pain in the cuss for those around them because they're so darn crabby. One particularly telling quote came from a mother who told the doctor that when the doctor removed her son's tonsils, he removed the "devil" from her son, too. She exclaimed that it was much like an exorcism.

Bubby certainly doesn't need an exorcism, by any means. But he does need to breathe. So I'm holding my breath awaiting Megan's decision on the procedure. I'm sure she'll make the right choice for Bubby. And I'm sure glad it's her making the choice, not me. Especially considering the wrong choice I made for Andrea all those years ago.

Today's question:

What tales do you have of tonsils?