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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 July 2007, 19:53 GMT 20:53 UK
Man suffers five year hiccup bout
David Willis
David Willis has suffered from hiccups for five years
An east Belfast man who has suffered from hiccups for five years is hoping a new surgical technique pioneered in the US will give him his life back.

David Willis, who suffers from an incurable condition known as intractable hiccups, hopes a 9,000 operation will end his misery.

The operation involves implanting a vagus nerve stimulator into his upper chest cavity.

The device, which is more commonly used to treat epilepsy, emits an electrical pulse along the vagus nerve to the brain at regular intervals.

These signals help prevent the electrical bursts in the brain that cause seizures.

The 64-year-old retired electrician says that without the operation, which his health insurer refuses to pay for, his life is not worth living.

"I can't go on much longer, the first few years I was able to get by, but now it is really getting me depressed," he said.

"It didn't used to affect me at night, I used to be able to sleep, but now it affects me through the night as well and I have to make myself wretch - it is the only way I can get it to stop."

So far David has had two major operations in an attempt to stop his hiccups.


He has also tried acupuncture, hypnotherapy as well as numerous other remedies such as drinking water from the wrong side of a glass to blowing into a paper bag, but all to no avail.

His wife, Jean, said the couple cannot lead a normal life because of her husband's condition.

"We can't go out, we can't socialise and if friends come around David feels uncomfortable and nine times out of 10 he has to go to bed and lie down," she said.

"He is just living an existence and that is it."

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