The Man Who Couldn’t Stop Hiccuping

I watched a very moving documentary last night about a young guy called Christopher Sands who could not stop hiccuping. Initially I thought it would be a bit of a joke but it was far from that. A talented musician who had not had a girlfriend for three years, who’s life seemed paralysed and trapped in a constant hiccuping nightmare. Vomiting, sleepless nights, difficulty breathing, no social life had been going on for nearly 3 years. Give him his due he had searched and searched for a cure, seen may consultants and doctors and tried alternative remedies – none of which worked.

Cleverly he was then spotted on youtube by a tokyo news channel and became something of a star. An all expensives trip to Tokyo found him having an MRI scan – something which doctors in the UK didnt think was necessary. The MRI showed what he originally thought might be the problem, a small tumour in his brain stem.

Returning to the UK, he successfully came through a very dangerous operation to remove part of the tumour. A third was left as it was deemed too dangerous to continue and may have killed him or given him a stroke. He recovered enough to attend his sisters wedding and the hiccups eventually disappeared.

Sadly I think the lesson to be learned here is never be afraid to get a second opinion, if he had had an MRI in the UK, it would have been spotted earlier.

Which leads me to something that happened to me about 15 years ago. I was a bright lemon yellow colour, had pins and needles in my feet and was losing my touch sensation, and getting anxiety for no reason. I had no idea what was wrong with me and in those days knew nothing about health and the internet hadnt arrived. I got shunted from one consultant to another and MS was nearly diagnosed. I was even sent for a psychiatric evaluation by the neurologist. It continued for over a year, until a friend told me these were the very symptoms of pernicious anemia. I told the consultant who laughed at me and said it was highly unlikely. I then found a GP who did a Vitamin B12 blood test on me and my levels were 100 (reference range (160-1000)). I had an injection within the hour and in three hours I was feeling back to normal – all symptoms vanished. I still have these injections to date – I dont have pernicious anaemia but I do have problems absorbing the vitamin. I spoke to the consultant who apologised but said it was quite rare. Interestingly enough I see it a lot of the time in my patients with bowel disorders. This condition can often go hand in hand where B12 is not absorbed properly despite there being intrinsic factor.

So if you do have odd symptoms that can’t be explained don’t give up, you will get there in the end!

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