We call that a lesson learned

Things have been going along pretty well, post-Monkey-carving. Some might even say TOO well. (Please cue up the foreboding music of your choice right here. I’ll wait.) Despite my fears that post-surgical Monkey would be a giant ball of pain and anguish and HULK ANGRY HULK SMASH misguided energy, for the most part, post-surgical Monkey has been calm and agreeable and positively robot-like in his apparent inability to recognize that he might be in any pain at all, most of the time.

In fact, I was just reading Jean’s post about Jack’s recent dental work and laughing that slightly hysterical “Oh God I’ve been there” laugh that one does when having a there-but-for-the-grace-of-God moment. Because that’s kind of what I expected, this week, was a neverending MAKE IT STOP thrashing from my son. But no. He’s been perfectly fine. The model patient. Particularly if your patient is evidently impervious to pain.

We were thrilled. We were also, it turns out, perfectly positioned for a giant hubris smackdown. And as these things tend to go, I was completely unprepared even though afterward it was CRYSTAL CLEAR exactly what had happened.

My downfall was that I tried to use logic and good sense. It went something like this:

“Monkey is doing so well! He’s not reporting any pain, and he’s even starting to eat soft foods! And narcotics are nasty things, and because he’s doing SO VERY WELL, I think I will try transitioning him to Advil, now. All that Lortab cannot possibly be good for him, particularly when he’s doing JUST FINE.”

(Go turn up the volume on your ominous music. I’ll wait.)

Yesterday morning I gave him Lortab. And he was perfectly pleasant all morning. I quizzed him—again, as I query him constantly and he must think I’m pretty stupid, by now—as to whether or not he was having any throat pain at lunchtime, when he was due for another dose. “I feel fine!” he insisted, as he’s been doing.

“Great!” I said. “Let’s switch to Advil seeing as how you’re doing so well!”

Now, I still planned to give him Lortab at night, just in case, but Advil for the daytime, when he was feeling pretty good, seemed like a logical step.


I made two critical errors: First, you would think that three+ months of him, I don’t know, NOT REALIZING HE FELT LIKE CRAP and subsequently LOSING HIS MIND on a regular basis would’ve primed me to the possibility of his not necessarily being able to signal me that things were not continuing to go well. I mean, you would think that, but YOU WOULD BE WRONG. And second, I gave him some Advil at noon, figuring I’d do a second Advil dose later in the afternoon, and then Lortab at bedtime… but I somehow spaced and didn’t give him that second dose of Advil.


And so it happened that I was in his room putting away some laundry when he emerged from his first post-surgical shower (I think figuring out how to put the sticky earplugs in his ears to protect his tubes took longer than the shower itself…). “How’re you doing, buddy?” I asked.

“I’m fine,” he answered. As he does.

Well. I opened up his pajama drawer and it was just about empty. Even after putting away the jammies from the laundry, I could see that he was missing several pairs. And I’d just done the laundry, so I knew they weren’t in the hamper. This left a few different possibilities; dirty laundry sometimes migrates to other locations in his room, for one thing, and also occasionally when tasked with putting his clean laundry away he sees something shiny and stuffs clothing in odd locations so as to be done more quickly.

I turned to him and said, “Where are the rest of your pajamas?”

“What do you mean?” he asked, pulling on a clean pair.

“Your pajamas,” I repeated. “A bunch of them are missing.”

“They’re probably in the hamper,” he said, with a shrug.

“Monkey,” I said, getting a little testy, “This is the clean laundry. I just did laundry. There’s NOTHING in the hamper. But half your pajamas are MISSING. Did you put them away somewhere else? I’d like to know where they are.”

And that, my friends, is when Monkey Had Enough.

I will spare you the full description of the scene of carnage that followed. In retrospect—he probably had ZERO pain medication in his system by then, probably felt really crappy, was probably on sensory overload, probably probably probably I should’ve just not been so concerned about the damn pajamas at that moment in time and instead should’ve come bearing smiles and hugs and massive doses of Lortab, but that’s not how it went down.

Instead there was a meltdown. And a “I have had enough of this, young man, go to BED”down. And a subsequent sitting-in-his-bed-screaming-down, which I swear must’ve peeled the scabs right off his wounds and scared me half to death because HOW could he even achieve that level of noise four days after surgery, and how could it POSSIBLY not hurt him beyond measure when the paint was positively curling right off the walls?

Then there was Lortab. And cuddling, and apologizing (both sides), and finally—sleep.

So I think I’m just going to keep him on the Lortab for now. Actually, maybe forever. Because the knee-jerk OH GOD NO HE’S NOT ANY BETTER HE’LL NEVER BE ANY BETTER THIS IS OUR LIFE NOW panic attack I had last night—before getting ahold of myself and realizing that hey, he was in pain—took about ten years off my life. So basically, he has to take the Lortab or I do, and I need to stay sober so I can drive. So I think the necessary course of action is clear.

Now I just have to find a doctor who’ll keep prescribing it for him until he’s, I dunno, 18 or so.


  1. Janet

    Well, geez, Mir, I don’t know why you’re not clairvoyant by now. (hug) and ps this sounds a lot like our morning this morning, only I don’t have the “kid in pain” excuse, I just have the “mom caring unreasonably about something silly” thing on my side!

    But inquiring minds want to know…. where WERE the jammies? don’t leave us hanging!! :D

  2. Kate

    The pajamas! Where. Were. The. Pajamas?

  3. Mir

    Okay, I can see people are concerned about this. Listen, I have no idea where the pajamas are. I walked away and haven’t gone back, yet, to figure it out.

  4. Janet


  5. Leslie

    Hugs to you, Mir. It will be OK. Similar things have happened to me with my own Aspie son.

    And once you figure out where the pajamas are, could you let us know? ;)

  6. kelly

    I also did the same thing on day 4 (today is 6 for us) I will never for all my years forget the look on his face when the meds wore off. Imm. tears spilling down the face, lips quivering, and the look of ‘I will never trust you again EVER” Back to the heavy meds, on schedule also until he is 18. Small bits of the scabs are breaking off today, again with the look of non trust-He had some in his hand and said “Ma, what is this.” I answered him, let us just say he is a very unimpressed 6 year old right now. But on the bright side is feeling well enough to holler at the 3 year old for messing up his video game. Hang in there! I feel your pain.

  7. Chris

    Deep sighs. Hang in there with this one. You’re doing the best you can. So easy to judge yourself in hindsight.

  8. Niki

    When my 15 YO had her wisdom teeth out last summer, I worried that she might be a serious druggie, because the oral surgeon had told me he was giving her enough Vicodin for a week, but she would probably be fine with just tylenol after day 1. 5 days later, the kid was still in bed begging for the Vicodin. Day 7 we went back to the oral surgeon, and when I mentioned what seemed to be a lot of (still!) pain, he said, “Oh, yeah, well, they were all really impacted, and I had to drill and drill (I know – I heard it for a good 45 minutes). I’m sure she has been in a lot of pain.”

    Do you think they could have told me that? No! “She’ll be fine with Tylenol tomorrow.” yeah, right.

  9. Rachel

    Please do let us know when/where you find the pajamas. =)

  10. Laura B.

    My son was 7 when he had this surgery and it took him the full week the docs had predicted to recover. I really thought he’d bounce back more quickly, nothing seems to hold him down, but this must be a doozie. At the 8 day mark he went back to school but I still had to go in mid-day to give him tylenol because he simply couldn’t function without it in his system. Hang in there!!

  11. Katie in MA

    Dude! Who’s up for a road trip to Canada! Except, um, maybe someone other than me needs to be put in charge of Making Sure the Illegal Meds Make It Safely Home. Ahem.

    (Really, dear, it was just one misstep. It will be okay. Pinky promise.

  12. RuthWells

    Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.

    Last night Aspie Son #1 had a meltdown at Aspie Son #2 for #2’s (rather loud) attempts to open the new peanut butter jar, which — wait for it — #1 had asked #2 to do. So, yeah. There’s just no telling sometimes.

  13. Ani

    Oh gosh, so so sorry to hear!

    Others may disagree…but I think a good indicator of when to stop the narcotics is when a dose puts them out for hours. Anything less than that, the pain is still there, whether they know/acknowledge it or not.

  14. teachergirl

    in a morose sort of black sort of really black attempt at humor, google put a treatment center ad in your reader post for me. as if to cue me that you guys are downing the good drugs over there. i thought that might make you laugh to know.

    all will be well. after a bout with chronic pelvic pain years ago, wherein if i didn’t keep the drugs ahead of the pain bad bad things would happen (and i could effectively rate and evaluate my pain, ad nauseum), i can totally relate to what happens when suddenly it’s just gone. nothing works right and you can’t do anything well. monkey will be okay, as will you.


  15. Lucinda

    We all make those mistakes. Hopefully you aren’t beating yourself up and you have recovered from the panic attack. Someday you will master those mind-reading skills. lol

  16. Megan

    The Mystery of the AWOL Pajamas! Places to check (which have, really and for true, been actual places missing items were found in my home): on the little shelf formed by the extra leaf beneath the dining room table; behind the top row of books on the bookshelf; and, possibly the best, on one of the fan blades in the kitchen. And my kids weren’t even on meds!

    So tough trying to ride that line between pain control and over-medication – it was hard enough with a true-blue hypochondriac, I can’t imagine it with a tight-lipped little stoic!

  17. Debbi

    hugs to both of you!! Make sure you sneak some wine or something for yourself, you deserve it!! Hope today is much better for both of you.

  18. Amy

    When I had my tonsils out when I was in the 7th grade, I seem to remember taking the pain meds for a solid two weeks. Also, if you were to take a nip or two from the Lortab bottle once or twice, none of us would say anything! Hugs to you and Monkey!!

  19. JennyM

    Driving is overrated. Lortabs all around!

  20. Lori N

    The pajamas are scrunched up at the bottom of his bed, under his covers. At least that’s where my daughter tends to squirrel away all sorts of things. :)

    Good luck with the pain meds! My mom broke her elbow & wrist this summer and didn’t realize that she could get a refill of her pain meds and so she was trying to only use them at night. (This after 5+ hours of surgery.) Imagine the look of absolute bliss when the doctor informed her to just take the damn medicine & here’s the refill prescription for 100 tabs. (We all breathed a sigh a relief as well.)

  21. Heather

    Oh wow. That could not have been fun! Can you put a medication reminder on your cel or something? (Come to think of it, I should do that for myself. Yeesh. Last night I couldn’t remember for the life of me if I’d taken mine or not. Except that one is part sleeping pill and I was still WIDE awake at 12, so yeah. I figured it out, because I am a rocket scientist.)

  22. Chuck

    Hang in there Mir! Pain meds are your friend. Does Monkey go back to school next week? Maybe you can start weaning him off by this weekend.

  23. My Kids Mom

    I will be googling this post if either of my kids ever needs tonsils out!

  24. Karishma

    I was wincing as soon as I hit that 4th paragraph just b/c I could imagine myself having that same exact “oh my god, this is our life forever now” meltdown if it didn’t work out well. And then it didn’t. And then you had that moment, and I almost wanted to cry for you a little bit. You’re right though, it does look like he still needs that Lortab, and you need to have that piece of mind. Good luck! He’ll be fine in the end, it’s just a matter of waiting it out.

    (Funny story: After I got my wisdom teeth out, while still under sedation, I overheard the doctor giving my mom a prescription for Vicodin. I have absolutely no memory of this – my mouth was so numb I could barely speak intelligibly, and apparently the sedative turned me into a 5 year old, whining and asking my mom to pull my hair back into a ponytail and help me get my jacket on etc. – but I launched into a loopy, drugged up diatribe over how i WOULD NOT take Vicodin, b/c it’s a NARCOTIC, you guys. Advil is FINE, I PROMISE. The doctor laughed at me, and my mom filled the prescription anyway. :) I still refused to take it, b/c I’m just that stubborn.)

  25. Otto

    Were they fleece pajamas? Kind of blue?

    Yeah, I used those when I washed the car the other day … I think they’re in the garage.


  26. Becca

    There’s a big misconception out there as to pain medication and addiction. As long as you’re still in pain, there’s no risk of addiction. There’s also no benefit to pain. My surgeries got a lot happier when I stopped fighting the drugs, medicated around the clock, and only withdrew the medication in stages.

    Which is to say, if you want to see if he can tolerate being off the meds, increase the interval between doses and see how his behavior is in response.

  27. Monique

    So, who’s coming in with me on the PJ pool? So far, we have bets on: under the bed, bookcase, fan blades (really?), and the good money is on Otto with in the garage, but I don’t think he should play. It’s cheating! Lol

    Hugs to you, Mir and healing thoughts to Monkey.

    PS. Yesterday’s post was awesome! So happy that Chickee is doing awesome, in spite of everything.

  28. Sara

    Hi Mir,

    Day Four is still too early for advil. Actually, unless things have changed in the last few years I *think* (could be wrong) that they recommend tylenol for pain since advil is a blood thinner and could contribute to heavy bleeding. Keep him on the drugs until he has healed. The next few days are the rough ones when the scabs come off.

    Hang in there Mir. It’ll get better and the jammies will return.


  29. gillian

    4th day after surgery is ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS a bad BAD bad day.

    As Becca said above, don’t be so scared of the pain meds. if they are being used for pain then addiction potential is a long way away.
    This is one of my per subjects as a pharmacist – when I counsel patients on not taking their pain meds properly they invariably tell me they only take them when they really need them. Well, that is not taking them correctly. They need to be taken before the pain gets so so very bad.

    Besides all Monkey’s other issues he was feeling ‘fine’ because the meds were keeping the pain at a tolerable level.Realise that when the body has help in fighting pain then the energy that would be spent on this fight is now available for other more important things , for example ,healing
    Don’t be so scared of the meds. Give him a chance to recover. And a chance for all of you to recover. From both the surgery and the shock of it.

  30. paige

    Oh no.

    I’m so sorry…you definitely need lots of Lortab for Monkey and lots of wine and chocolate for Mir.

    Here’s hoping for an uneventful recovery from here on out.

  31. Kathy

    When my daughter had this surgery she was just on tylenol … but when the drugs would wear off and the pain set in she would just stop wherever she was and scream “I need the red pills!” It would just hit her like a sharp … um … pain!

    Oh little Monkey body … heal quickly!!!

    Have a glass of wine, Mir!!


  32. Brigitte

    Just thank all the powers that be that he can keep the painkillers down! I, alas, always get that lovely projectile-vomiting side effect with every painkiller ever. The mere memories make me very, very sad.

  33. jwg

    Not to worry you, but I’ve seen a post-tonsillectomy bleed. It is not pretty. So if screaming and raging does anything to make the scabs pop before necessary do anything you can in the way of strong medication and sedation to prevent it.

  34. Lisa C.

    I remember when my son had his tubes put in and adenoids out (he still has tonsils), it took me a million years to get the post op meds from the pharmacy. We’d been instructed to give ibuprofen around the clock and Lortab as needed. My mom was with him at the house while I was at the store and when I got home she said he was acting strange and she was worried. He went into a total meltdown saying “It hurts it hurts it hurts!” over and over again. He was only 5 so we had liquid Lortab which tastes like ass. I finally got a good dose down him with some Gatorade, and about 15 minutes later he was out like a light.

    Those first few post op days are hard. You did what you thought was right… don’t beat yourself up. :)

  35. Mary anne

    Did they mention the day10 post op syndrome to you? Expect a bad day ten. Not sure why but our 26 year old just had her tonsils excised at Thanksgiving and day three and ten are listed in the post op notes as ones to watch. Monkey thank God can tolerate the pain meds, We had a fun and games balancing act Nausea vs. pain at our house. Best to you both It slowly improves.

  36. Zilla

    Otto is funny!

  37. Aimee

    Oh lordy. I can understand you not going back to re-check the pajamas. I’d be tempted to just buy new ones.

    I hope Monkey’s feeling better soon. That you all are.

  38. laura

    Try not to blame yourself to much for the missed meds. At some point in time when you have ‘one of those days’ you just have to move on.

    Helpful hint: sometimes I down a shot of tequilla and THEN move one.

  39. laura

    Contrary to the spelling errors in the previous post, I have not had a shot of ANYTHING today.

  40. Stimey

    Oh. Dear. Lord. You KNOW that I am right there with you. Trying to pick up on how someone feels, especially a small person who doesn’t feel sensations in a typical way and who may not, say, use words to let you know how he is feeling is IMPOSSIBLE. Any decisions you make on this front will inevitably make you feel like a terrible parent. Rest assured, you are doing great. Let me know when you find that doctor who will prescribe narcotics willy nilly. I may need to keep his number in my back pocket just in case. :)

  41. Jan in Norman, OK

    I was re-reading “Bird by Bird” (Anne Lamott) last night. She talks about having her tonsils out (as an adult). When she ran out of pain meds, she called for a refill and the nurse told her to chew gum. The nurse explained that the body “tenses up” around a wound and that this increases the pain. She said chewing gum would relax those muscles in her face and neck. Anne said that the first “chew” was very painful but then it worked.

  42. mamaspeak

    I do this to MYSELF. I have a couple different avenues in which I’m dealing with pain on a fairly regular basis. (Fibromyalgia & herniated disc.) When I’m feeling fine, I’ll be cruising along and all the sudden I’m a total bear to my kids. I have no patience, I’m snapping & yelling at them and the worst part is I can see myself doing it, but it’s like I have no ability to stop it. At that point I’ll realize that I’m hurting and get myself in to a better position (till another adult can be around and I can take a pain pill.) So consider Monkey is like 11? And has sensory issues? I’m 43 & don’t & still seem to have a problem recognizing it. You guys are still ahead of the game in my book.

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