“I hurt my neck pulling in my gramma’s whale.”


Here is a heck of a deal

The oil that comes from a seal

     Has vitamin D

     And Omega three

But lacks universal appeal

A patient who said, “I hurt my neck pulling in my gramma’s whale” gave me permission to quote.

These are not words you will hear in Sioux City.

The more you do something the more likely you are to get injured doing it.  In turn-of-the-century Sioux City and current Arthur County, Nebraska, for example, horses regularly injured and killed people.

When I did industrial medicine for the packing plants in Iowa I saw overuse and animal related injuries.   A combination of carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and biceps tendonitis comprised the syndrome we called “packer’s shoulder.” 

A whale is a very big thing.  It stands to reason that if you live in a place where whales mean the difference between starvation and plenty, people will get whale related injuries.

I don’t know that the following story is true; I suspect it is as I’ve heard the same details from multiple sources.  A group of people were pulling a whale onto the ice using a block and tackle.  The strap on the tail broke and the block and tackle rocketed backwards, killing two, including a doctor’s wife who was decapitated.

I am surprised I’ve seen no cuts from the very sharp tools used on whales. 

A great many people suffer from constipation because they eat so much muktuk (raw whale blubber attached to whale skin). 

They also suffer overuse injuries from cutting up the whale, including tendonitis of the biceps and the brachioradialis (the tendon in your forearm a palm’s breadth up from your thumb).  If I see enough cases, I might publish a paper and call it “whaler’s arm.”

I am surprised to have seen so little frostbite or its sequelae.

I opened my day with seven abnormal and two normal vitamin D levels.  I went to the pharmacist to work out a vitamin D replacement schedule.  I will start the patients on vitamin D replacement at standard doses but I’ll miss the follow up in 8 weeks. 

Seal oil is very high in vitamin D, and the only patients who have come up with normal vitamin D levels have been high consumers of seal oil.  But almost everyone here eats whale blubber, so I suspect it has little vitamin D.

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