Tonsils and Adenoids: Times Past


my great grandmother being presented to the Duke of Wales at Tiaro Railway Station in 1919 ?20

Recently I sat in the hospital waiting room patiently allowing the hospital processes to take their time. My surgery seemed to be scheduled for a similar time as that of the children undergoing removal of their tonsils and adenoids. I couldn’t help but marvel at how times had changed in relation to children in hospital.

When my brother (Baby boomer rural Australia) had his tonsils and adenoids removed my parents took him to the hospital, the nurse took him in hand and led him away from my mother screaming. I don’t know whose pain was worse – his or hers.

Now entire families sat in the room normally only allowed to those undergoing the knife. A little old man tried to go with his wife to wait with her – he was turned back. But here we had Mums and Dads and siblings joining the tonsillectomy child in the waiting room. Mum was given theatre garb to wear – she would go into theatre with the child. No being taken out the back to a trolley for these kids. The anaesthetist came into the waiting room and sat cross legged on the floor. Let’s hope the cleaners were skilled in their job. He talked about spacemen and masks and had numerous sizes for the child to try out, always starting at a huge oversize number before working down to the appropriate size for the child. Then they examined what smell the child would like to have when the mask was placed on his face. There was coca cola, strawberry, mint but all the kids this day chose a candy floss flavour. Once all these important things had been decided off Mum, child and anaesthetist went – straight to theatre. I doubt Mum was allowed to stay for the entire operation but none came back to the pre surgery waiting room. They probably were moved on to recovery so they were there when the child woke up.

This gave me the prompt for this months Times Past. Then I discovered in 2016 we had already done changes to treatment in medical conditions which had been prompted by my bunion and hammer toe operation. Changes in Treatment  can be seen here. Instead I decided to go simply with tonsils and adenoids. Have you had them out? What was your experience? Was it different to your child’s experience. Perhaps someone from the silent generation might remember tonsil removal on the kitchen table.

Baby Boomer  – Russian City

But perhaps it is not just the silent generation that might have some tales to tell. A flat mate of my husband in the seventies travelled to Russia. At that time the Cold War still raged and travel in Russia was very regulated. Permits were required to travel and it was not allowed to break your journey from the route planned. When you get tonsilitis on the trans Siberian railway these rules are broken for the afflicted but his travelling companions were compelled to continue on their journey. Murray was taken to hospital where nobody could speak English. One day as he wandered the ward he was grabbed from behind, another burly chap wrenched open his mouth and a third shoved a scalpel in his mouth, slitting the offending organ. Blood spurted forth and Murray couldn’t even scream. He said he never stood again where someone could come up and grab him from behind.

Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and  your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in can be seen at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments or by creating your own post and linking. Looking forward to your memories.

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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25 Responses to Tonsils and Adenoids: Times Past

  1. Wow! Yes, we certainly seem to treat everyone more nicely these days!

    I’ve also noticed the tonsils and adenoids were a more routine removal in the past, but medical professionals advise parents to retain them if they can nowadays.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Certainly they were removed much more readily than they are now although I still have mine. The funny thing is that although they were more commonly removed in my observation kids are sicker these days with colds and flus than we ever were – so who knows. Probably nothing to do with it at all. Certainly the care of children having them done is much better than it was. We have to be thankful we live in a country where we have this type of luxury.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m stunned by the barbarity of the Russian “hospital” that Murray suffered. This scene eclipses everything else you wrote about. They don’t seem to be much removed from the medical practices of the Stone Age. One more reason that visiting Russia is far down on my list.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. colinmathers says:

    The screaming removal from parents was only the beginning for 3-year old me. Mum tells me that the hospital would only allow her to visit me once a week for one hour and apparently I was in there for quite some time. And one of the nurses told her I was very upset most of the time at the enforced isolation from parents. I think that nurse may have allowed her to sneak in.
    Another tonsil story from the 1970s (slightly more recent). Megan (wife at the time) had her tonsils out. She was at home about a week later, when she had a massive haemmorhage one evening (which we discovered later was due to a quite large blood vessel that had been cut and not adequately stitched). We lived only a couple of kilometres from Prince Alfred Hospital, so I got her in the car and drove there as fast as I could. It took them most of the night to stop the bleeding and she was transfused with about 6 litres of blood because of the continued blood loss. Eventually the crisis ended and I went to the bathroom to go to the toilet. When I looked in the mirror I saw that my nose was painted bright purple. The previous evening I had been using some gentian violet on a cut and painted my nose purple as a joke. Then with the haemmorhage I forgot all about it. No one at the hospital said a word.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. oneletterup says:

    I guess I was one of the lucky ones! I never had my tonsils or adenoids removed. Glad I escaped that drama. Fascinating stories, Irene. And I love the photo.
    I’ll look forward to reading the other entries this month, but I won’t have any tales to tell or add. [last month I tried to cross reference a bit…hopefully within the Times Past guidelines :)]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Definitely within the Times Past guidelines and I did enjoy your memories. I too was fortunate not to have had mine removed so I have no stories of my own either. Hopefully next months prompt will have your remembering an experience.
      My great Grandmother always intrigued me and held me in a bit of awe. She only had one leg and I must have been a storyteller from an early age as I used to tell everyone how she lost her leg and this was the reason she was presented to the Prince of Wales. I was convinced this was a true story and was disapponted to find out only recently that it was far from the reality of her leglessness.

      Liked by 1 person

      • oneletterup says:

        Once a storyteller, always a storyteller! We hold our great/grandparents in such high esteem – it’s no wonder you imagined such a story. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Someone told me about an interview they heard on the radio featuring an acclaimed author who is a Jew. They were talking about lying and the interviewer asked her if she could remember her first lie. She couldn’t but she could remember one from when she was very young. In primary school in Israel all the children had grandparents in the concentration camps of Europe. This child did not and she felt left out so she made up a story about her grandmother who was not only in the concentration but she escaped and killed a german officer as well. The child was lauded. The school decided to ask her grandmother to come and speak at the school about her war experiences which she agreed to do but expressed to her daughter her confusion as to why she had received such an invite when she had no war experiences to speak of. The child had to admit what she had done. Her grandmother told her that everyone tells lies but if you want to tell the best lie and get away with it – write fiction. This is what the child did. I thought it was a great story. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • oneletterup says:

        That is a wonderful story! What a very wise grandmother. Thanks for sharing this 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome. Some stories are worth sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. noelleg44 says:

    Even though I am at the oldest edge of the baby boomers, I had an enlightened physician and never had my tonsils taken out. He believed they were more useful in. I did have to have my wisdom teeth removed in the hospital, though. I tried to tell them I’m a sorry bleeder but of course they didn’t believe me and I woke up afterward with all sorts of dried blood all over me and my mother telling me they had to do a lot of suctioning.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Never had much of anything removed, but remember other kids having tonsillectomies and the story was you got to eat all the ice-cream you could stand. That procedure seems much less common now. When I did have a surgery about three years ago they asked about music preferences, which was nice but I was out so it seems a better idea for the people wielding scalpels to have their favorite music playing. I went with something neutral.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d forgotten about the ice cream stories. You reminded me that I was always a little upset that mine were never suggested being removed because I absolutely loved ice cream and as a kid in our house it was a real treat and not served that often. Your music story gave me a smile.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. pattimoed says:

    Although I recently had tonsillitis and couldn’t believe the pain, I’m glad I never had my tonsils out under some of the conditions you’ve described. Thank goodness medical procedures have changed! The trauma they created for both the parents and children! Yikes!

    Liked by 1 person

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