Tonsillitis: Quite literally a pain in the neck

The breakfast of kings... Kings with angry tonsils.

The breakfast of kings… Kings with angry tonsils.

Anger is not an emotion I’ve ever recoiled from, however my angry tonsils are in full rage and it’s becoming a damn nuisance.

Generally, I’d say I’m in pretty decent health.

Save for a constant, year long dose of the sniffles, a chronic ailment I’ve put down to our wonderful northern weather, and dodgy footballer’s knees which make jogging and climbing the six flights of stairs at Conway Park Station feel like my patella is drowning in acid; asides from that I suffer the same Winter doses of coughs, flu and mild hypothermia endured by anyone who works with the general public and spends an ample amount of time standing at rain sodden bus stops and on freezing cold station platforms.

All this and the burning of the candle at both ends of course leads to an inevitable dip in the old immune system – something which I’m sure, like most other complaints I could muster, would benefit immensely from a drastic improvement in my fitness level – which leaves my body open to an infection which has intermittently plagued my existence for the past four years, making my life, albeit for a manner of days, an insufferable misery.

In the grand scheme of life debilitating diseases and illnesses, Tonsillitis may not rank at the same dizzy heights of say Cancer, or Motor Neuron Disease, or Rheumatoid Arthritis, in fact, put in perspective my biannual incapacitation looks like nothing more than a #firstworldprostration, but let me tell you, it is, quite literally, a pain in the neck.

Growing up Tonsillitis seemed to me as simple as the Chicken Pox – you suffered through it once and the doctors would whip out the offending glands quick as a whistle and have you back in the playground within a week. But as it happens I didn’t experience Tonsillitis back in those medieval playground days, my first personal experience of the infection came at the ripened age of 23, in the midst of an 18 week fast-track diploma in journalism, when, as you might imagine, time was of the essence, and being laid up infirm for a week was quite the inconvenience.

Since then that inconvenience has popped up about twice a year to knock me for six, and disrupt my very important day to day life. I’ve become something of an aficionado at Tonsillitis actually, learning from countless, fruitless visits to the walk in centre and the advice and war stories of fellow comrades.

I know, for example, that there is little point in trudging to the doctor’s office unless your temperature has peaked (generally I’ve found that to be a very good line of judgement of how sick you are whatever the cause- the more impossible a fete the idea of actually going to the surgery and sitting in a waiting room without throwing up or passing out, the more you actually need to see a doctor). I know that without evidence of fever you ain’t getting anything more than a sympathetic nod of the head, they only dole out the antibiotics for those who are already perspiring the infection from their forehead. I know the difference between a viral and bacterial infection. I know that whatever the doctors may say, paracetamol and ibuprofen do very little other than act as a choking hazard when your tonsils are the size of golf balls. I know, at least on my last official consultation that no doctor in this country is going to go ahead and remove my tonsils until I report a minimum of 11 isolated infections a year – a figure that, however frustrating, stands as a heady reminder that no matter how shit you feel, someone out there is getting it a hell of a lot worse. I know that I should be grateful, believe it or not – and I rarely do at times like these – that my tonsils are there, intact, serving their God given (or otherwise) purpose of preventing an infection from striking deeper down where it might be far more serious than a headache and a sore throat.

But that is not all it – a headache and a sore throat – as the NHSΒ website would lead you to believe.

Even from the first niggle of inflammation which, with my expert eye, I can perceive hours before it begins, Tonsillitis is mild agony. I only say mild because in light of the perspective above, I admit that while the infection is misery it is not quite as debilitating as other more top flight diseases.

It begins with the niggle of discomfort at the opening of the throat, the growing prominence of a dull ache around your frontal lobes, the ever increasing difficulty and pain to swallow, sneeze, cough, yawn, talk, the turning of one’s otherwise fully functional brain, to mush.

The brain mush is perhaps one of the most frustrating symptoms of any cold, flu or infection, as it’s the least visibly excusable. People can appreciate your affliction when you’re dripping from your nose or coughing up a lung but when all that is yet to hit and all you have to show is the discombobulation of dehydration, there’s less sympathy on offer.

That was my Friday – a mess of things forgotten or fluffed up. I wasn’t quite yet in the throws of fever or inflammation but the aches and pains were settling in for the long run and my brain has turned to mashed potato. I turned up to my first reading group of the day without the proper, prepared text, winging it with another short story. In the process of making tea for the group I somehow managed to make such a mess Β that anyone with a tendency to the conspiracy theory might have misidentified me as an extra-terrestrial, unfamiliar with simple artefacts such as kettles or teaspoons. In the reading aloud of the story – a painful undertaking in itself – I resumed reading toward the end of the text after a lengthy discussion within the group, conveniently missing out a crucial paragraph to the plot so that we finished the story just a page later with absolutely no idea what the actual point had been. Discovering my mistake, I was by now quite sniffly and pathetic looking, I apologised profusely and was eternally grateful to my group members for resisting the undoubtedly strong urge to laugh aloud at such a pitiful sight.

With the decision made to go home and feel sorry for myself I kept my earphones out – I have learnt almost the hardest way possible the danger of playing loud music in your ears when you are already in a dopey bubble of snot and brain mush. I stood before the closed doors of the train as we pulled into Central Station knowing that something was missing, realising just before the doors opened that I had left my bag and gloves sitting comfortably in the seat next to the one I’d just vacated. At the turnstile I couldn’t find the travel pass already in my hand. In Tesco’s I couldn’t locate the boxes of paracetamol which stood in clear sight before my eyeline. At the checkout I put my card into the reader wrong, twice. At home I was unable to pin down the words I wanted to relate the morning’s series of misadventures to my flatmate. And from there I gave up all hopes of any functional brain activity past boiling the kettle and heating soup.

A Rock 'n' Roll Friday night with Tonsillitis

A Rock ‘n’ Roll Friday night with Tonsillitis

By Saturday I was a full, useless mess, unable to swallow, speak or shout at the rugby without experiencing crippling pain. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t lift my head up for much longer than do much more than curl up in a ball and mop. By Sunday afternoon I managed a solid meal and even ventured out as far as the bin store. By Sunday night, after a weekend of social isolation, I managed to have an actual conversation without too much suffering. Monday morning brought another waking terror of struggling to breathe or swallow without agony. Another breakfast of pills and morning lying horizontal on the sofa. Just when you think you’re on the mend, it comes back to bite you in the throat.

But here I sit by Monday afternoon sitting upright, forming full, comprehensible sentences. Slowly but surely the swelling is going down, the headache is lifting, the brain cells are regenerating. Swallowing is becoming more of a discomfort than a pain and for my next trick.Β Ladies and gents, this is recovery.

Walsh 1, Tonsillitis 0… almost.

I don’t imagine that I will ever reach the point of emergency when doctors will decide that my tonsils offer a greater risk inside my mouth than out of it. I’m assured that this is something that may naturally pass with time, as it did for my mother when she was in her twenties. So until then I persevere, destined to endure another week’s inconvenience and discomfort some months down the line.

For now I plan on getting down a solid meal, spaghetti hoops on toast, if you were interested, and by tomorrow I hope to be back on my feet and back to the bliss of the day to day mundane rat race, beginning again with a new found vitality for my own health and well-being – good intentions which generally last a few hours before the stresses and strains of real life kick me back into the regular pursuit of short term pleasures: sloth, cider and cake.

Oh cake, how I miss thee. I mean, I like soup, but it can get a bit boring… In fact, forget the resolutions to exercise and take vitamins and get a better night’s sleep – when my tonsils return to their regular human size and I can once again circumnavigate daily life without having to lie down too often, I am going to eat all of the food.


One comment

  1. […] and no one would be considered weak for suffering the annual barrage of flus and colds (or the more beastly infections previously damned in these pages) so why should a tiredness or vulnerability of the mind be any […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: