Topic: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

My family physician has suggested that I get my tonsils out because I keep getting sore throats, infected tonsils, etc.  The ENT says he doesn't want to because I would have to learn how to blow into the bassoon all over again because of the newly created space in my throat.

Any bassoonists out there had your tonsils out as an adult?  Did it wreak havoc with your playing?  How was the recovery (I hear it is pretty terrible for adults).

Any input would be GREATLY appreciated.
Thanks,
Carol

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Re: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

Hi Carol,
I am an oboist and had my tonsils out when I was 24. Yes, it is difficult as an adult, and yes, it will mess with your playing, but for me, the health benefits made it very worthwhile. I sleep better, and my overall health notably improved.  I'm very glad I did it.

When you return to playing, you can expect to have a leaky soft palate (your soft palate won't be able to stop the air from going out your nose), but as with any muscle, your soft palate can be retrained. I and others have posted previously on this forum on that topic.  It took me about 4-6 weeks to get my playing back to normal, and I've had no problems since. In fact, my playing is probably better without the icky tonsils in the way.

Feel free to contact me directly for more information.

Kendra Johnson
Adjunct Prof. of Oboe
Weber State University
Ogden, Utah

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Re: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

I had mine out when I was 19, and it was the most miserable experience of my life recovery-wise!! However, I am grateful to not have throat infections constantly, that messed with my playing more than anything. It also took me a few weeks to get my soft palate working properly again. In the long run, a good idea, but be prepared to be really unhappy and lose loads of weight.

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Re: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

I had my tonsils out this past March (I'm 24). The recovery was pretty horrific - I had to have two extra surgeries to re-cauterize my throat and stop it from bleeding. All in all, my recovery took about a month. Coming back to the bassoon was slow, but not that difficult. I'm glad that I got them out, as subsequent illnesses have been a good deal less severe.

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Re: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

Senior year in high school, my tonsils got very swollen and infected. They gave me a VERY hard time through my college auditions. A year later, they did not fare well in freshman year. They were constantly getting infected, they were quite swollen all the time and they were often very painful. I got them removed first day back after my freshman year. Needless to say it was the worst pain I've ever been in. You should seriously consider the possibility of living with them. If you feel there is no other alternative, go ahead. But I don't say that in defense of your bassoon playing--- life is long, there's plenty of time to relearn how to play bassoon... especially if you have a summer off to do so. You will not recover quickly. As an adult the recovery period is of course longer. I tried to play at three weeks and the pressure caused hemorrhages.

There would be small pockets in the sides of your mouth that will both leak air and catch food.. quite annoying for a while, but they eventually fill in a little and your mouth reaches a new equilibrium.

Please listen to what everyone is saying... the recovery process is not easy at all. It is EXTREMELY painful and will render you incapable of talking, eating, swallowing, barely breathing (not to mention sleeping) for two weeks.

All in all I think my procedure was a good decision. I haven't gotten sick since, and my playing improved exponentially after I recovered and reapproached the instrument. After all, nothing like a technique and embochure re-set with PROPER form when you can really pay attention to the small details. Take the reapproach to the instrument as a fresh start, a way to start good habits from the very beginning to solidify your development.

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Re: Tonsillectomy: To Do or Not To Do?

If there are realistic health concerns, re-learning the bassoon shouldn't be the reason not to.  I had mine out when I was 19, young enough to bounce back quickly.  I didn't notice any difference after a bassoon playing; I didn't have any air-leak or need to retrain in any way.  And I felt/feel a WHOLE lot better.  I attribute my ease at playing bassoon after to the doctor who did the procedure and did a really outstanding job.  Also, be VERY aware of who the anesthesiologist is because sticking a tube in your airway can cause problems too.  Both the doctor and anesthesiologist knew what I did as a bassoonist and knew they had to treat me with extreme care; as a result, I had no difficulties.

Paula Brusky, PhD
Bassoon Chamber Music Composition Competition, Founding Director