Source: North Pole Journal of Medicine, vol 1 no.1, December 1997 Author: Dr. Iman Elf, M.D.
On January 2, 1997, Mr. C, an obese, white caucasian male, who appeared approximately 65 years old, but who could not accurately state his age, presented to my family practice office with complaints of generalized aches and pains, sore red eyes, depression, and general malaise. The patient's face was erythematic, and he was in mild respiratory distress, although his demeanor was jolly. He attributed these symptoms to being "not as young as I used to be, HO! HO! HO!", but thought he should have them checked out. The patient's occupation is delivering presents once a year, on December 25th, to many people worldwide. He flies in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and gains access to homes via chimneys. He has performed this work for as long as he can remember. Upon examination and ascertaining Mr. C's medical history, I have discovered what I believe to be a unique and heretofore undescribed medical syndrome related to this man's occupation and lifestyle, named Aerial Sleigh-Borne Present-Deliverer's Syndrome, or ASBPDS for short.
Medical History: Mr. C. admits to drinking only once a year, and only when someone puts rum in the eggnog left for him to consume during his working hours. However, I believe his bulbous nose and erythematic face may indicate long-term ethanol abuse. He has smoked pipe tobacco for many years, although workplace regulations at the North Pole have forced him to cut back to one or two pipes per day for the last 5 years. He has had no major illnesses or surgeries in the past. He has no known allergies. Travel history is extensive, as he visits nearly every location in the world annually. He has had all his immunizations, including all available vaccines for tropical diseases. He does little exercise and eats large meals with high sugar and cholesterol levels, and a high percentage of calories derived from fat (he subsists all year on food he collects on Dec. 25, which consists mainly of eggnog, Cola drinks, and cookies).
Family history was unavailable, as the patient could not name any relatives.
Physical Examination and Review of Systems, With Social/Occupational Correlates: The patient wears corrective lenses, and has 20/80 vision. His conjunctivae were hyperalgesic and erythematous, and Fluorescein staining revealed numerous randomly occurring corneal abrasions. This appears to be caused by dust, debris, and other particles which strike his eyes at high velocity during his flights. He has headaches nearly every day, usually starting half way through the day, and worsened by stress. He had extensive ecchymoses, abrasions, lacerations, and first-degree burns on his head, arms, legs, and back, which I believe to be caused mainly by trauma experienced during repeated chimney descents and falls from his sleigh. Collisions with birds during his flight, gunshot wounds (while flying over the Los Angles area) and bites consistent with reindeer teeth may also have contributed to these wounds. Patches of leukoderma and anesthesia on his nose, cheeks, penis, and distal digits are consistent with frostbite caused by periods of hypothermia during high-altitude flights. He had a blood pressure of 150/95, a heart rate of 90 beats/minute, and a respiratory rate of 40. He has had shortness of breath for several years, which worsens during exertion. He has no evidence of acute cardiac or pulmonary failure, but it was my opinion that he is quite unfit due to his mainly sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits which, along with his stress, smoking, and male gender, place him at high risk for coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, emphysema and other problems. Blood tests subsequently revealed higher-than-normal CO levels, which I attribute to smoke inhalation during chimney descent into non-extinguished fireplaces. He has experienced chronic back pain for several years. A neurological examination was consistent with a mild herniation of his L4-L5 or L5-S1 disk, which probably resulted from carrying a heavy sack of toys, enduring bumpy sleigh rides, and his jarring feet-first falls to the bottom of chimneys. Mr. C. had a swollen left scrotum, which, upon biopsy, was diagnosed as scrotal cancer, the likely etiology being the soot from chimneys.
Psychiatric Examination and Social/Occupational Correlates: Mr. C's depression has been chronic for several years. I do not believe it to be organic in nature-rather, he has a number of unresolved issues in his personal and professional life which cause him distress. He exhibits long-term amnesia, and cannot recall any events more than 5 years ago. This may be due to a repressed psychological trauma he experienced, head trauma, or, more likely, the mythical nature of his existence. Although the patient has a jolly demeanor, he expresses profound unhappiness. He reports anger at not receiving royalties for the widespread commercial use of his likeness and name. Although he reports satisfaction with the sex he has with his wife, I sense he may feel erotic impulses when children sit on his lap, and I worry he may have pedophillic tendencies. This could be the subconscious reason he employs only vertically-challenged workers ("elfs"), but I believe his hiring practices are more likely a reaction formation due to body-image problems stemming from his obesity. The patient feels annoyed and worried when he is told many people do not believe he exists, and I feel this may develop into a serious identity crisis if not dealt with. He reports great stress over having to choose which gifts to give to children, and a feeling of guilt and inadequacy over the decisions he makes as to which children are "naughty" and "nice". Because he experiences total darkness lasting many months during winter at the North Pole, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) may be a contributor to his depression.
Treatment and Counseling: All Mr. C's wounds were cleaned and dressed, and he was prescribed an antibiotic ointment for his eyes. A referral to a physiotherapist was made to ameliorate his disk problem On February 9, a bilateral orchidectomy was performed, and no further cancer has been detected as of this writing. He was counselled to wash soot from his body regularly, to avoid lit-fire chimney descents where practicable, and to consider switching to a closed-sleigh, heated, pressurized sleigh. He refused suggestions to add a helmet and protective accessories to his uniform. He was put on a high-fibre, low cholesterol diet, and advised to reduce his smoking and drinking. He has shown success with these lifestyle changes so far, although it remains to be seen whether he will be able to resist the treats left out for him next Christmas. He visits a psychiatrist weekly, and reports doing "Not too bad, HO! HO! HO!".
Conclusions: Physicians, when presented with aerial sleigh-borne present-deliverers exhibiting more than a few of these symptoms, should seriously consider ASBPDS as their differential diagnosis. I encourage other physicians with access to patients working in allied professions (e.g.Nightly Teeth-Purchasers or Annual Candied Egg Providers) to investigate whether analogous anatomical/ physiological/psychological syndromes exist. The happiness of children everywhere depend on effective management of these syndromes.