“Five Maine hospitals get top ratings for quality, safety.”

— Portland Press Herald, Jan. 22

This recent announcement comes just in time, as — breaking news — I am about to participate in minor surgery. More on that in a moment.

Hospitals: I remember having my tonsils removed at age 11, and I didn’t set foot in a hospital again until I was in my early 70s, which is a pretty good record.

The latter was for the required and very important colonoscopy. I had two of those. They went well — in fact, it was very pleasant. I don’t know what they gave me to put me to sleep, but it was great, and faster than Tylenol PM.

There was a mild heart attack I had six years ago, but I wasn’t hospitalized for that because it happened on a Friday and I ignored it because I thought it was gas. On that Monday She, who keeps saving my life, said I better check it out.

You know what’s scarier than a heart attack? Having a doctor say, “You’re having a heart attack.”

But apparently by then it was too early to die and too late to actually do anything about it.

That was six years ago and nothing similar has happened since. I sleep with my fingers crossed because I love chili and beans and enjoy a lot of gas.

It’s been my experience that there are one or two reasons to go to the hospital: a “procedure” or to visit someone who is having a “procedure.” For the record, I prefer that word instead of “operation.” “Grey’s Anatomy” is about “operations,” usually with eight or nine gorgeous people in masks and a closeup of an exposed heart. Nobody ever wrote a series about “procedures.”

When two or three friends of mine went in for relatively minor “procedures” and came out with infections, the news caught my attention. Thankfully, I’ve avoided any serious events that would require me to engage in a “procedure,” but that is about to change. More on that in a moment.

Infections: Last year, a friend went to visit a mutual friend. She brought flowers and candy and left with an infection. It was probably a coincidence, but stuff like that gets my attention.

I have since stopped visiting sick friends. Now I just stand in the entrance doorway and hand the flowers and the card to an attendant. There’s always a nice lady in blue or flowered scrubs to take the flowers. If you get sick, you can count on me for a text or an online Hallmark card.

I’ve always had a natural fear of hospitals. It’s funny, because I kind of grew up in hospitals. My mother was a nurse, and sometimes in her early years, I would take my homework there after school and complete it while sitting in the public lounge or, later in the day, in the nurses’ lounge.

I was a cute little boy in those days, and many of the young nurses would stop by my table on their way home or on breaks and chat with me, ask me questions and help me with my homework. This I think was the beginning of my lifelong fondness for nurses. I have great memories of one in particular. Loretta was her name. Yes, Loretta, tall, very blonde. Yes, that was the beginning.

The big plus was when they would bring me leftover hospital food.

You know how we all hate hospital food and make fun of it? When you’re a kid you’re always hungry, and when you’re doing your homework in a room next to the hospital kitchen, it can be wonderful. You won’t get any Dr Pepper or french fries with catsup or candy, but there are treats.

I loved the hospital Jell-O, almost all of them, even the lemon and lime, but especially the grape Jell-O.

OK, this week I’m having a “procedure.” Don’t be alarmed. It’s basically cosmetic, a personal touch, a nip and a tuck, day surgery, in and out, like popping in to Starbucks for a latte except you get a little nap and when you wake up you don’t remember what flavor it was.

My market friends won’t notice anything dramatic, maybe a certain swagger, a buoyant elan in the way I move through the produce section on my way to the wine racks. The good news for you is that you won’t have to visit me and risk getting an infection. But if you like, you can leave the flowers with one of the ladies in scrubs at the door. Ask for Loretta.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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