I'm fine now, but for the last few weeks, I've been recovering from minor heart surgery -- if anything can considered minor when it comes to the heart.

The first thing I learned at Bridgeport Hospital was that one size does not fit all when it comes to hospital gowns. I am six-foot-five and a biscuit over 260 lbs. One size may fit most, but I felt a distinct breeze as I lay on my gurney before the operation. It was not really a gown but more of a mini dress with a big slit up the back.

I was about to say something, but by then they already were prodding me, poking me with needles and putting tubes into various orifices. Whatever dignity I had left was fading rapidly. The staff was so efficient it would have seemed idiotic for me to ask, "Did anyone leave a window open?"

They wheeled me down to the OR, and, just like on television, I stared straight up and watched the ceiling tiles and lights pass by, interrupted only occasionally by a doorway. That was the last thing I remember.

I woke up eight hours later in ICU, and right away I was very impressed with the nursing staff. They were right there. Sometimes they would have to take care of another patient.

One patient in particular seemed to have a problem with the concept of the call button. Instead of pushing it, she would yell incredibly loudly, "Nurse! Nurse!" The nurse would go in, take care of her and patiently explain how the call button works. A few minutes later: "Nurse! Nurse!"

Then she started calling out, "Girlie! Girlie! The nurse took care of her needs and explained the call button for the hundredth time. At that point I could barely see her trough the window. But she looked like she was staring at me when she started up again. "Girlie! ... Girlie!"

I wanted to scream out, "Shut up. Stop calling me a girlie. It's a hospital gown. We all have to wear them."

I was moved into a regular room the next day. But after a few hours, I heard from the next room: "Nurse! Nurse!" She was my next-door neighbor for the rest of my stay.

I went back to work part-time last week. It felt good to get up, shower and put on big-boy pants.

The first thing my boss asked me was, "Did you have a pig valve put in your heart?"

"What?" I replied. "I've been telling you about this procedure for months. Have I ever once mentioned a pig valve?"

"No you didn't," he said, "but Jim kept saying you got a pig valve ,and I assumed you told him. I know you told me about the operation but your explanation was very long. I assumed I must have nodded off when you mentioned pig valve. Jim's explanation was shorter. `Pig Valve.' That's it. Everybody understands."

When the next guy showed up in our small office, I immediately went up to him and explained that I had a complex procedure done, but it did not involve a pig valve. This second office mate said he never believed Jim for a moment.

"I knew you wouldn't get a pig valve," he said, "because isn't part of your family Jewish?"

Jim was off that week, so I couldn't confront him. And by the time the last of our group arrived it was too much work.

"Good to see you back"

"Yeah, I got a pig valve"

"That's what we heard"

It's been difficult sleeping. The pain isn't that bad. It's just that I can't get comfortable.

This weekend I was talking to my neighbor, who is a few years older than me. I complained that I couldn't get comfortable sleeping. He didn't offer me the sympathy I expected. He said, "The pain from my compressed discs in my neck meets up with the pain from my arms at 2:30 a.m., and I can't sleep after that. I have lived on less than four hours sleep for years."

I felt like a little bit like a whiner after that and turned to leave.

As I walked away, I thought I heard him say under his breath, "Girlie."

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his wife and two daughters. His "A Father's Journal" appears every other Wednesday. He can be reached at: tlawlor@mcommunications.com