Man vs. Mule

port hole in old ship 

“Doc, I don’t want to have any more tests. Hell, I don’t even want to take any meds. If I die, I die. I ain’t scared of meetin’ my maker.” 

“Well, I understand about not being afraid to meet your maker. I know you have a strong faith in God. For my part, I am not afraid to have you die, either. I hope for your sake that is what happens. What I am afraid of is having you have a stroke that is not bad enough to kill you, that leaves you paralyzed and unable to train those mules that you love so much.” 

He had already had about three transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) in the past six months. They were signaling something bigger approaching.

His wife, sitting in the corner, piped up, “I sure as heck ain’t wipin’ yer butt for ya! You have a stroke and I’m puttin’ yer sorry butt in a home.” 

They both laughed. 

I laughed. 

“Seriously, though, take this blood thinner and start this cholesterol medication.” My hand hovered over the computer send button.

“No can do, Doc!” 

“Ok, fine.” I deleted the prescription. “You are stubborn as those mules, aren’t you?”

“Yes, ma’am!” He grinned his proud, lopsided grin and followed his wife out the door. He slapped her on the butt as they rounded the corner and I heard her giggle.

His boots were always caked with mud and chunks fell off as he walked leaving a trail to mark his existence. My staff always cussed his name as they rushed around to sweep up the detritus before someone else saw and noted it on their patient satisfaction survey…

Next time I saw him, he was in a wheel chair. His wife had ended up having to wipe his butt for him. What they had was true love, after all. 

Now he could no longer say no to the medication he was given every day to prolong his life and by golly his wife insisted that he get it.  

He lingered like that for years.

Then he was gone.


94 thoughts on “Man vs. Mule

  1. Ah, a sad tale indeed and yet good, too. What can I say, true love is as persistent and stubborn as those mules.

    I suspect I am married to that man and there is not a darn thing you can do except to love them and be grateful for the time you have together. I have a lot of patients like that, won’t take their meds, won’t watch their blood sugar. It baffles me, but that really is the nature of quite a few people, men especially, although there are quite a few mule headed women too.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Sounds like it was one of those, “won’t happen to me scenarios” coupled with the conviction that when it was his time he would somehow pull off the ultimate all or nothing ending. I dread being any sort of burden to anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sometimes people don’t really understand how a stroke can impede their ability to train mules and still not kill them. I take my meds because I don’t have anyone to wipe my butt and I want to be able to train my mules to the bitter end, dammit. He’s the wrong kind of stubborn.

    Liked by 3 people

      • One way in which our culture should change is in the direction of simple death for people when they are so old or so messed up they cannot possibly enjoy their lives anymore. My Aunt Martha reached that point and while everyone thought she was senile, I disagreed when she said, “I don’t know why I’m here. I’m no use to anyone.” She was 87, sat in a chair all day looking out the window, in marginal health. What was ahead of her was breast cancer (operable and operated on) when she was 89 and a sojourn in a nursing home. For me the bright side was one hour I got to spend with her in the last month of her life. Was that compensation enough for her for what she’d lost and felt in the last four years of her life? But you deal with this all the time… I just don’t think death is categorically “bad.”

        Liked by 3 people

    • You know, men are more likely to never show up in my office in the first place. Once they are there I think it is pretty equal on the noncompliance. Not that I have any studies to back that up, it is just a feeling I have from my practice.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a coincidence! Yesterday I went down to Melbourne to visit my friend who has had a stroke and the doctor took me aside and started telling me what I needed to do to avoid having one myself. I hope I have a big one if I have one at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Truly my biggest fear is either to have someone have to take care of me like this. I also do not think I could be a sustained caregiver.
    My Father in law was a saint taking care of his dementia and nasty wife for the last five years. Everyday, she slipped away, he stood next to her and yes, wiped her butt.
    Now this sweet and generous man is facing his own passing as we speak. He will probably not see daylight,
    What a gift he was.

    Liked by 2 people

      • This is a good point. I think the marketing that is done with medications is counter intuitive. I feel the same way as most about statins….well most medications. There is ALWAYS a symptom that is produced for every one that is relieved. We do not cure, we mask. But he has severe warning that his future was imminent.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Medications are overused, no doubt. Everything has side effects, whether we know them or not. A lot of patients and a lot of physicians seem to forget that, honestly. So a healthy dose of fear and skepticism is a good thing so long as it is not carried too far….


  6. You expressed it so well … sometimes, the good news is that it will kill you quickly. Unfortunately, the opposite is usually what happens … the significantly reduced quality of life and lingering for a long time while eating up life savings etc.
    How sad for you to see the train wreck that is about to happen with no means to prevent it.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That broke my heart and reminded me of what my one grandmother went through. RA, really bad, leg amputation from old age diabetes, many strokes that left her mind sound and her body useless. She was like that for years. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My husband and I read this together. We decided we are going to 1.take our meds if we need them to prevent stroke, etc. And 2.strengthen what the mule trainer and his wife had: a sense of humor. But I can tell you now, as he drifts off to sleep: If I thought he was going to have to wipe my butt, I’d gradually stop eating, and try to keep a sense of humor. AND NO FEEDING TUBES!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hard to strike the balance between over- and under- medication. I know people that say “Give me drugs!” for everything. And I’ve had doctors prescribe drugs just to get rid of me, instead of trying to find out what the problem is. Just because the answer isn’t obvious, doesn’t mean the complaint is not real.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I find as I get older (72) my life wishes change. My wish now is that the good Lord lets me pass in my sleep, or something quick. :o), oh and I still wish to win Power Ball or the Lottery. :o)))))). I feel I have a better chance at my first wish.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The best part about this story is that the man still had a sense of humour and the relationship with his wife was still good.

    If I have to face a terrible fate I will whistle “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” by Monty Python or “So What” by Miles Davis, remember my favourite Billy Connolly quote and accept that it could all be worse.

    Good read.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Have had my share of those kind of patients as well… Tough. Life often is. We all make our own choices – and as doctors, wives, husbands, children – we also need to respect and understands others’, even when we disagree with them. It hard, though…

    Liked by 1 person

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