Tonsil Removal Gone Bad

By Iris Santana –

The door opens, her hands are over her mouth, head bent down, blood everywhere.

It was a regular, boring Tuesday afternoon until the last two minutes of Streeter Stewart’s third block class in early June.

Danielle Brooks, a junior at Penn Manor, had just gotten her tonsils removed and during the ending of the class, Brooks felt nauseous. As she approached the bathroom, instead of actually throwing up, Brooks started to spit up blood. She rushed out into hallway, where she was pulled back into the classroom and the nurses were called.

When the nurses arrived, they knew right away it wasn’t something they could take care of. And 911 had to be called. Everyone without gloves was kicked out of the room while they tried to get Brooks laid out on her side on the floor until the ambulance came. When she arrived at the hospital, the doctors numbed her mouth and “sucked” all the blood out. She was released from the hospital the same day.

“They didn’t really say much about why that happened, just that the scab from my stitches opened up.” said Brooks.”But I was so nervous, I thought I was going to die.”

Although it is very rare, Brooks was lucky because some people don’t make it after a tragedy like that.

There was an incident in 2007 where an 18- year-old died eight days after having her tonsils removed. Another teen, Kayleigh Kennard, woke up from her sleep and threw up a pint and a half of blood. She was rushed to a nearby hospital. After removing a blood clot from her throat, a major hemorrhage from a ruptured artery was found. She suffered from extensive brain damage and died later that evening.

“The frequency of death after tonsillectomy is one in 40,000, so statistically it is very rare for this to happen,” said Anthony Morley, who carried out Kennard’s tonsillectomy.

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A tonsillectomy is when the tonsils are removed from either side of the throat.

Tonsils are lymph glands in the mouth that help to fight infection. Sometimes they can get infected in the process of fighting infection. This usually only occurs in children. In adults, tonsils are usually a problem only if they are too large and obstructing the airway/throat, causing sleep apnea.

There are four main reasons why someone will need to get a tonsillectomy.

1. Recurrent Tonsillitis- This is when inflammation of the tonsils keep occurring, due to infection.

Tonsillitis can easily be spread by close contact of an infected person.

According to WebMD, droplets of disease-causing agents pass through the air when an infected person breathe, coughs or sneezes.Infection can also occur if pathogens get on the skin and end up in contact with eyes, nose or mouth. Symptoms will then start to occur 2 to 5 days later.

2. Quinsy- A quinsy is when an abscess forms in the tissues next to the tonsil (following an attack of tonsillitis). Two or more quinsies need to occur before a tonsillectomy is performed.

3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea- This is when tissues in the upper airways come too close to each other while sleeping, temporarily blocking the inflow of air.

4. Malignancy- This is usually associated with tumors. A malignant tumor can easily spread. This can also become cancerous.

Everyone has three different types of tonsils located in different areas of their mouth.

1. Palatine Tonsils- These tonsils are located on both sides at the back of the throat.

These are the tonsils that are usually removed for infection or obstruction.

2. Lingual Tonsils- These tonsils are located at the base of the tongue.

3. Pharyngeal Tonsils (also known as Adenoids)- These tonsils are located high in the throat, behind the nose.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Logo

In 1959, 1.4 million tonsillectomies were performed in the United States.

According to The American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery also known as AAO-HNS, the number of tonsillectomies has decreased in the United States since the 1970’s.

Thirty years ago, nearly 90 percent of all tonsillectomies performed on children were because of recurrent infection. Today nearly 20 percent are for infection and 80 percent are for obstructive sleep apnea.