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surgery complications

mrb20
Posts: 1
Joined: May 2013

Hello, this is my first post.  I am a 33yo female and I am one week post total thyroidectomy.  While my ultrasound and biopsy showed the papillary tumor to be quite small, and my surgeon told my family that the surgery went perfectly, I experienced nothing but complications once I woke up.  At first I had significant breathing issues, almost prompting a tracheotomy.  Once that was under control, it was still clear that I had severe vocal paralysis, as I could not get any sound out.  The following day I started experiencing some symptoms of hypocalcemia, tingling in my hands and face.  It turned out my calcium was low, and I began getting tums and IV calcium regularly.  On top of these things, both of which my dr claimed to be very rare, I had a severe allergic reaction to the steristrip and my entire neck and upper chest area has a horrible rash.  I was discharged after 4 days, but am still taking a large dose of calcium daily on top of my synthroid (which worries me a little), and my voice is still nonexistent.  Worse than the voice part is the fact that I cannot swallow liquids very well and am often choking.  I now realize how easy it is to take for granted chugging a glass of water!

Can anyone speak to either the vocal chord paralysis/swallowing issue, or the calcium problem and give me some insight on what to expect in the coming weeks and months?

Thank you!

amorriso
Posts: 186
Joined: Oct 2010

Hi I had my thryroidectomy almost  3 years ago - and had some similar problems to you.  I woke up in intensive care unable to swallow - scary...breathing was ok though.  My voice was a whisper but I could use it though it was hard.  I discovered I was allergic to the morphine they gave me for pain - I felt awful for a few days till I figured it out.  And I too am allergic to the adhesive on the bandages - nothiing worse than an ichy incision site!  Even my IV site iched! Have they taken off the steristrips?  they took my off early and just used a waterproof spray  to protect it. 

Anyway - it took a few days to swallow anything - some one suggested trying thicker liquids like milkshakes and cream soups - water is thin and can be hard to swallow - ok - sounded strange but it did work.  I had to spit a lot - just too hard to swallow saliva.  I slept very elevated - almos sitting up.  Solids took almost a week - and I was very careful for about 2 after that - just very afraid of choking.  My gag reflex wasnt normal so I did choke a few times it was NOT a pleasent experience. I tried to make sure I only ate when I had people around me... All is ok now.  I often wonder if it was a strange reaction to the general anesthesia.  I know of two other people with swallowing/breathing issues after surgery - neither had thryoids out either!

I had to take calcium - quite a high dose at first but now its ok -- I found if I took it every few hours  I didnt have any of the  tingling.  Gradually as I started to eat again I was able to reduce the amount - I try to include calcium foods (wait for a few hours after the synthroid though) and now just take one tablet at night. 

My voice took a few months to return to normal and there are days(especially first thing in the morning) when it sounds a bit rough.  I think others have suggested seeing a speech pathologists to help get it back - you may want to look into that if it doesnt start returning. 

So overall your next few weeks will be a bit challenging. I spent a lot  of time on this forum during my recovery.  But you will gradually return to normal.  I'm almost 3 years post and doing fine...

 

All the best

 

Missy757525
Posts: 3
Joined: May 2013

 

I had the exact symptoms- but my doctor accidentally removed one of my parathyriods and she said she may have damaged my other 3. It has been three weeks now and I still have trouble with my voice and swallowing. So, I now what u are going through.

 

Herstory11
Posts: 3
Joined: May 2013

I have had thyroid cancer for 14 years. My first thyroidectomy damaged one vocal cord, frozen in the "open" position so I can still speak, but my voice has changed. After my second "completion" thyroidectomy, 11 years later, I lost my voice again.  I went to speech therapy and got it back to where it was after the first surgery. Your doc can write a prescription for speech therapy.  I still take extra calcium and occasionally "choke" on nothing. I eat smaller bites of food and have to drink water with each bite. You get used to it.

Lorraine

galinbakersfield
Posts: 23
Joined: Apr 2013

I had similar problems. The speach, I couldn't really use my voice for several weeks. To this day (5 yrs later) it's not the same. 

As for the calcium, I was released because my Dr said I was doing good. The morning after being released I was rushed back to the hospital via ambulance for Calcium tetany. It was so scary, especially for myself, my husband and us having a 5 months old little girl. I was then on IV calcium, potassium and mag for a 7 days. After that it took me a few weeks to be able to walk without a cane, and I was on calcium, a prescription medication, and Vitamin D for almost 2 years. And I was in the ER about once a week for a IV infusion of potassium and calcium. It was horrible. I fell in that 1% area and it stunk. It does get better. I haven't taken Calcium for almost 2 years, except when I get really sick or the stomach flue bc I am right on border line of normal. I can tell when it's even border line and I pop a calcium and it helps. Best of luck. 

galinbakersfield
Posts: 23
Joined: Apr 2013

I had similar problems. The speach, I couldn't really use my voice for several weeks. To this day (5 yrs later) it's not the same. 

As for the calcium, I was released because my Dr said I was doing good. The morning after being released I was rushed back to the hospital via ambulance for Calcium tetany. It was so scary, especially for myself, my husband and us having a 5 months old little girl. I was then on IV calcium, potassium and mag for a 7 days. After that it took me a few weeks to be able to walk without a cane, and I was on calcium, a prescription medication, and Vitamin D for almost 2 years. And I was in the ER about once a week for a IV infusion of potassium and calcium. It was horrible. I fell in that 1% area and it stunk. It does get better. I haven't taken Calcium for almost 2 years, except when I get really sick or the stomach flue bc I am right on border line of normal. I can tell when it's even border line and I pop a calcium and it helps. Best of luck. 

candid
Posts: 16
Joined: Mar 2014

hello there

i hope your post-op symptoms dissaperaed until now. I had minor calcium problem after my op, but my voice and swallowing was greatly affected; for a few weeks after the op, there was pain and difficulty while swallowing, but eventually it healed. It was my voice that required almost 1.5 years to come to a "normal" level (though it is still less that what i used to have prior to the surgery and i cannot sing as used to....). My ENT had said it would be fine over time and did not even mention about speech therapy; i wish he had! i still have slight difficulty while swallowing and sometimes i feel like i lose my voice. oh well :)  it is okay.

 

hope you are feeling better,

 

candid

melissaw72
Posts: 1
Joined: Apr 2020

I can also relate.  After surgery, I felt the tingling in my hands, ankles, hands, wrists, cheeks and nose.  After having blood work to see my Calcium level, it was low and I was told to go to the ER.  In the ER, no matter what was tried (mainly Tums ... I lost count of how many I had to take before they realized my level was not going up), my level kept dropping, and I was admitted to the ICU for 3 days.  There I was on a calcium drip for a day before my calcium level was in the normal range.  (I had blood drawn every 3 hours to check). When it was in the normal range, they tried giving tums to me again, then more blood drawn, and the level dropped.  Went back on the Calcium drip to get it  back to normal. When normal they tried adding (to the tums), calcitriol.  Still didn't work.  Long story short, there was a trial and error, with lots of blook work, before they found something that would keep my level up.  In addition, I also had to have a magnesium and potassium dripbecause those levels started dropping too.

The day and for 2 weeks later, after discharge, I had to get more blood work done, and the level was ok, then dropped, etc.  Finally (on my own), I started taking my Vitamin D3 supplement (10,000 IUs) on top of everything else.because Vit D3 absorbs calcium.  It worked.  No more low calcium.  So I now take 2 calcitriol (active form of D3) a day, 6 tums a day, and the D3 supplement 5 days a week (because the 10,000 IUs is a high dose) ... to keep my calcium level in the normal range.

Another problem was that my voice changed, and so far, it has never been the same.  It ia very high-pitched and not loud enough to talk my way through an automated system, for example calling a credit card company and going through the automated prompts), it hard to understand what I am saying to people, whether it be on the phone, standing next to them, or over the computer, for example Face Time.  I have to repeat myslef all the time, sometimes having to say one word at a time for someone to understand me. I still have a little hoarseness left as well.

I also have swallowing problems now, where if I take a big drink of water (or anything water-based), it will always go down my esophagus AND trachea (going into my lungs), causing me to cough until my lungs settle down, which can take awhile.  I can successfully drink thicker things like smoothies, but one can only have so many of those. Sometimes my own saliva will go down the wrong way, causing me to cough.

In addition to that, I also have breathing problems, and it is not asthma (ruled out).  Right now, I can barely vacuum my one-bedroom apartment.  After 30 minutes of doing that, I was semi-gasping for air, and had to rest for awhile (hours) before I could beathe like I did before vacuuming.  I can't go for more than a 2-3 minute walk without having to stop and sit down, to catch my breath.  This has also been ongoing since the moment I woke up from surgery (this, the not being able to swallow right, and my voice changing). 

And right now, during this pandemic going on, it is hard to be near people becasue if I take a drink and it goes down the wrong side, triggering a cough, people wonder if I am sick with the virus.  Same with the breathing problems.  My breathing problems stem from surgery, not being sick.

Today, I just realized my gag reflex is gone, or if I have one, it is much, much farther down than I thought.

That is my expereince so far. .It is good to know I am not the only one going through these.

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