Page last updated at 12:34 GMT, Monday, 11 January 2010

Cured of the hiccups after suffering for years

By Alex Hudson
BBC News


Chris was unable to leave home while suffering from the hiccups

He tried yoga, hypnotherapy, acupuncture, pickled plums, mustard, vinegar and every single way you could imagine to drink water but now Chris Sands, the man who suffered hiccups for over two and a half years, has finally been cured.

After a chance diagnosis while filming for a Japanese documentary, the 26-year-old had surgery to remove a tumour found on his brain stem.

Surgeons believed this was what was causing the hiccups.

"When I found out, I just dropped," said Chris Sands.

"It was lucky there was a chair underneath me because I would have dropped to the floor. I was in tears and I didn't know what to do.

It has ruined my life pretty much
Chris Sands

"It could have killed me at any time."

Mr Sands, who is an aspiring musician and lives in Timberland near Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire, first got the hiccups in September 2006 and, after a few days, began searching for a diagnosis.

After finding that hiccups could be linked to brain tumours, he went to visit a doctor.

"They said, 'don't worry about it, it's probably just linked to your heartburn, here's some Gaviscon'," he said.

The hiccups went away but returned for good in February 2007.

What followed was a two-year search for something to stop the hiccups that took him to the other side of the world.

"When you first tell people about the hiccups they do laugh straight away and I suppose they don't think about how debilitating it is.

"It has ruined my life pretty much."

The problem has prevented him from working, driving, leaving home and even finding a girlfriend.

Chris Sands receiving cupping therapy
Chris tried a number of unusual things like cupping while searching for a cure

While searching for a breakthrough, Mr Sands appeared on television both in the UK and Japan.

From these appearances, a Japanese doctor called Dr Kagyama offered to come and stay with him in an attempt to find a cure.

"That crazy man was absolutely fantastic," Mr Sands said.

Dr Kagyama tried a number of alternative therapies over the course of a week and, as his patient put it, "he loved to torture people".

"He wanted to put a giant needle at the base of my neck in behind my ribcage all the way down into my diaphragm.

"He said 'look, if I hit an artery or anything en route, then, well, you're dead'."

Mr Sands politely declined the offer.

Brain tumour

Shortly after Dr Kagyama's visit, he received a phone call from the Japanese TV programme he had first appeared on, offering him the chance to try some new suggestions.

"They said they had such a massive response from the public.

"The programme had 400 or 500 different cures sent in and they wanted to fly me over to Japan to try them."

Straight off the plane, his first day was spent with a hiccup specialist who had been studying the condition for years.

It was there that he underwent the MRI scan that revealed the tumour.

If they had done an MRI scan in England, they probably would have found [the tumour]
Dr Condo

The man who diagnosed Mr Sands in Japan, Dr Condo, said: "CT scans are extremely poor at detecting in this area - unless you use an MRI scan you won't be able to detect it.

"If they had done an MRI scan in England, they probably would have found it."

But Chris is not angry about the way he way was treated.

In fact, despite being offered the opportunity to have the operation in Japan, he chose to return to England.

"Everyone else seems to mean harm to the NHS for various reasons but I really don't.

"They probably should have done [an MRI exam] but it just never happened.

"I don't blame anyone and I got treated well no matter where I went."

'Long haul'

Chris underwent a three-hour procedure last September which removed two-thirds of the tumour.

And the hiccups have subsided. Four months after the surgery he seems to be well on the way to being cured.

"I still get bouts [of hiccups] 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].

"Before this whole thing started I hadn't even had a tooth out and now I've got a six-inch scar down the back of my neck, so they'd better go."

Before the surgery, Chris was warned that he may suffer some problems with his left arm and leg and may have to use a walking stick in the months following the surgery.

"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."

The Man Who Can't Stop Hiccupping broadcasts Tuesday 12 January, 2235 GMT, BBC One and afterwards on iPlayer.

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