For several years I volunteered at Penobscot Bay Medical Center, and I loved the experience. As I escorted friends and family to the nursing units, I noticed that the patients were often quiet and looking lonely, and I wondered what they were thinking about. Most of the time they brightened when they had visitors, although a sense of brooding still seemed to surround them.

It has been 50 years since my last admission to a hospital. I remember four times being admitted overnight, and all of them were before I reached the age of 21. Here is what I remember thinking back then.

I had a tonsillectomy at seven years old. My mother and an orderly escorted me to the pediatric unit, where a nice nurse came in with one of those tie-on-backward hospital gowns for me to wear.

“Now, Mike,” said the sweet nurse, “I want you to go into the bathroom and pee in this cup for me. Can you do that by yourself?”

Hey, I wanted to say, I’m a big boy and I don’t need help here.

The problem, though, was the small size of the metal specimen cup. Warm liquid gushed all over the top and sides and splashed onto the floor. Why did the nurse expect a small amount? They must have had bigger cups. Geez.

When I completed my task, I walked out of the bathroom and back to the nurse and my mother; the cup sloshed and dripped the whole way.

“The cup wasn’t big enough,” I said to the astonished nurse and my embarrassed mother.

After surgery, I only remember puking, crying, and, worse, resisting ice cream because I had to swallow.

At eleven years old, my juvenile asthma caught up with me. The pediatrician came to our house, took my temperature, listened to my weak attempts to breathe, looked at the brightly colored discharge from my lungs, noticed the look of panic on my mother’s face, and admitted me to a hospital for pneumonia.

Not a lot happened, I remember, except whatever treatments the doctors prescribed worked, and I breathed normally. I met other kids in the pediatric unit, most so much sicker than I, but we had a great time making fun of the doctors, nurses, and housekeepers. The best part: I ended up ordering double entrees at mealtimes, and feasting heartily on the French toast, English muffins with lots of jam, meatloaf, potatoes, ice creams, pies, and puddings. I remember thinking, hey, I could live here!

In my mid-teens, a family physician detected a lump in my lower abdomen.

“Am I going to die, doctor?” I asked.

“Don’t be foolish. It’s only a hernia.”

He referred me to a surgeon who scheduled the surgery. The only thing I remember preoperatively was the Demerol given to relax me. I became so relaxed I think I fell in love with a housekeeper who had arms the size of long sticks and hummed “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while she cleaned the bathroom.

“Mike, wakey, wakey,” said the doctor after surgery. “You had a whopper of a lipoma, so I cut it out.”

“What’s that? Sounds like cancer to me,” I squeaked.

“It’s just a ball of fat that really didn’t need to come out, except I figured since I was in there anyway, I’d just snip it. It wasn’t a hernia like I thought.”

I remember I became a little sad about the non-emergency nature of my surgery, and thinking that instead of a civilian purple heart or a certificate for surviving, I got bupkis.

“Come on, Skinner. Quit spitting so much,” my army barracks roommate said to me one night.

“I can’t help it. It just keeps coming,” I said as I wiped my drooling mouth with a washcloth.

“And quit kicking your footboard so hard. It’s keeping me awake.”

I had to keep my army boots on to soften the blow of my kicking at the end of my bunk to ease the foot cramps.

He sat up in his bunk, looked at me quizzically and said: “Jesus, your face is bright red. I’m taking you to headquarters so they can get you to the hospital.”

After being delivered to the base hospital by ambulance, they diagnosed me with a bad upper respiratory infection and pneumonia. They admitted me to a patient room with five other soldier-patients, positioned enormous bags of ice around me in the bed to bring my temperature down, started an IV, and made me drink gallons of Kool-Aid to relieve my dehydration. My drooling and cramps gradually stopped.

I wanted to sleep and be alone, not eat or drink (I hated Kool-Aid by then) or chat with my roommates. I became more and more irritable as the days went on, even as I physically recovered, and I don’t remember why.

The patients at Pen Bay Medical Center stirred me to look back 50 years at my inpatient admissions. Only now I realize there was one thing that tied together each of my hospital experiences: I went home better off than when I arrived.

I wish there were a way for me to reassure Pen Bay patients they will likely experience the same result as I. There is one thing I can’t assure them of today, though: larger specimen cups.

Mike Skinner is a writer who lives in Tenants Harbor. Skinner was a medic in the U.S. Army, a hospital executive, and a college educator. He is the author of “My Life as a Non-Valedictorian,” available through Maine Authors Publishing, local bookstores, and Amazon and Kindle.