For most people they are a minor annoyance which disappear after a few seconds of holding the breath or attempting to drink water from the far side of a glass.
But the bout of hiccups endured by Christopher Sands lasted for almost three years and very nearly killed him. Now, the 26-year-old musician has finally been cured after undergoing life-threatening surgery to remove a brain tumour which doctors believe had been causing the problem.
Until he awoke after the operation, Mr Sands, from Timberland near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, had been hiccuping once every two seconds for 12 hours a day since February 2007. After four days he visited his doctor, who told him it was probably a side-effect of heartburn and told him to take Gaviscon.
But the convulsions continued relentlessly and as time wore on he turned to a number of increasingly bizarre remedies including yoga, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, drinking from a specially-crafted cup and even eating honey while hanging upside down – all to no avail.
His condition soon began to attract the interest of the British media, at which point he was contacted by a Japanese television show called The World’s Astonishing News! He agreed to be filmed and the programme received a massive response from viewers, who began sending in cures.
In August last year the television company offered to fly him to Tokyo so he could try out the remedies and within three hours of his plane touching down he was talking to a hospital anaesthetist called Dr Condo who had been studying hiccups for 15 years. Mr Sands was given an MRI scan and was told he had a 1.2cm tumour on his brain stem, which doctors said was affecting his nervous system and triggering the hiccups.
Yesterday, Mr Sands – an aspiring musician who played rhythm guitar and sung backing vocals in a band before his hiccups made it impossible – described his ordeal as a “hell of a journey”.
“From starting off with a silly, amusing hiccup condition, to it getting quite serious and lasting a rather long time, to then travel to Japan to find out I had a brain tumour was just absolutely insane. I could never have thought that would be the outcome,” he said.
The three-hour operation, which was carried out last September at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield, resulted in 60 per cent of the tumour being removed. It has left him with reduced feeling down his left side and he now has trouble moving his limbs which could take years to subside – but the hiccups have finally gone.
“I still get bouts from time to time but I’m expecting that to completely disappear in a couple of months – it’s just due to the swelling [from the operation],” he said. “Everything is slowly getting better but it is a long haul recovery. It’s going to take 18 months but it is progressing.
“My left arm is still pretty rubbish but I’m just about able to play guitar again, which is really nice. We just had a band practice. I didn’t perform very well but it’s just nice to get back to that – such a good, positive feeling.”
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