The Hiccough Story

 The Hiccough Story

Ithaca Free Clinic February 28, 2008

It was post-clinic hours, I was finishing up my client sheets, and putzing around at the end of a busy 4-hour shift.  Our resident physician, called me in as her end of the evening client had been continually hiccoughing since Sunday afternoon. It was now Thursday night, so five days of continuous hiccoughing; it was pretty uncomfortable for him. He would hiccough a few times per sentence, and as he also had asthma, there was some difficulty in breathing as well. He had gone on-line and learned any number of tricks (i.e., holding his breath, breathing into a paper bag, etc.), and none had made any difference whatsoever. He had also seen a documentary about someone who had had and still has hiccoughs for over 5 years which was unsettling to him, to put it mildly. He had never had anything like this before.
Our clinic doctor went on-line to look at some professional medical websites hoping to find some clues, but there were scarce few.
I showed him a body posture I have tried with people with resilient hiccoughs with some success (it is a weird posture with the hiccoughee bending forward and drinking from a glass pouring onto their top lip. It is a bit hard to describe), I suppose like many hiccough remedies it makes them hold their breath and change the tension in their diaphragm. Well, this only brought on a quick fit of mild asthma, not something to encourage him to follow an herbalist’s lead. In fact he had never taken any herbal remedies, but he was desperate to try anything (why is this our cue so often?).
The only thing the doctor could find was Chlorpromazine (Thorazine) as a way to (this is a guess here) relax his diaphragm. None of us (including the doctor) were thrilled by this idea, as Chlorpromazine is a pretty strong drug, but hopefully he would need it only once, and as mentioned, he was desperate and no one had any better ideas.
And of course I was thinking, it’d sure like to help this guy. And so went to my office and found some fennel glycerite and chamomile tincture, and thought, what the heck, it’s worth a shot. So I put about 3 dropperfulls of each in a cup with some water, and he drank it. It didn’t seem to do anything, a bit of a disappointment, but I wasn’t expecting too much. But after a very short while I thought, it’s worth trying again. And so this time I put about 5 dropperfulls of each in a cup of water and he drank it. And it worked! I (and all of us, the doctor, the clinic coordinator, the patient and myself) were frankly all pretty amazed that his hiccoughs stopped. And after tentatively waiting for 5-10 minutes or so, they did not return. And our fellow patient was pretty damn glad as we were too.
And of course, as an herbalist, it felt like a fine example of the efficaciousness of herbal medicines.
A happy ending (for now).