Meet the woman who spent eight years hiccuping non-stop

Meet the woman who spent eight years hiccuping non-stop

There's nothing more annoying than a sudden bout of the hiccups. Not only is a hiccup a fairly ridiculous noise, but they also make it impossible to be taken seriously, and they're damn hard to get rid of once you get started. Even worse than the hiccups themselves are all the rubbish 'cures' that people have come up with. Maybe someone will jump out and startle you, or burst a balloon behind you to give you a fright. Maybe you'll be forced to drink a glass of water upside-down, or hold your breath for as long as possible. Whatever you're subjected to, it won't be fun, and all the while you'll be wondering "what if I never stop hiccuping?"

For most people, even the most violent attack of hiccuping will subside after about five minutes or so. But for mental health worker Danielle Kirkland, a sudden hiccuping spree randomly turned into a nightmare. After a heavy night of partying in March 2008, Danielle woke up one morning with the hiccups. The Alabaman girl assumed that they were caused by the booze she'd consumed the previous night, but became alarmed as they went on, and on, and on. No matter what she tried, the hiccups kept coming. Soon she'd been hiccuping non-stop for several hours, which later became days, then weeks, then months, and then years.

Danielle Kirkland and her boyfriend. Credit: Press Association

It almost sounds comical, but Danielle's hiccups were actually a serious health concern for her.  She visited her doctor seven times over the course of the next few months, and they eventually diagnosed her as suffering from chronic hiccupping. Unfortunately, Danielle's doctor was baffled by what was causing her hiccups to last such a long time, and they were equally uncertain about what the cure might be.

Danielle consulted with gastric, ear, nose and throat and lung specialists at St Vincent’s Health System, in Birmingham. They determined that Danielle's hiccups were probably caused by her diaphragm involuntarily contracting and spasming, due to her addiction to the painkilling medication she was on for her migraines and arthritis.

In the meantime, Danielle's hiccups had made life hellish for her. She'd been attending college and was training to be a nurse, but was kicked out of class because her hiccups were too distracting, and made it impossible for her to concentrate. They even had an effect on her love life, and made dating twice as hard for her. She even hiccuped all the way through a eulogy at a funeral, and embarrassment became a part of life for her.

A picture Danielle Kirkland. Credit: Press Association

Commenting on her strange medical misadventure in a recent interview, Danielle stated: "I took barbiturates and Lortabs (an opiate of acetaminophen and hydrocodone). I was addicted to them and would doctor-hop and pharmacy-hop to get them. I had been doing this for years before I went cold turkey in 2008. Going cold turkey was tough, I felt so fluey, but I recovered and am now sober. However, I think the long-term impact gave me chronic hiccups."

However, Danielle was eventually prescribed a muscle relaxant called tizanidine, which she takes a dose of every night, and which has reduced her hiccups to just six or seven a day. "I’m basically back to normal," Danielle stated, "No longer do hiccups interfere with my life. Now if I do get the hiccups I panic. I always time them. If it goes past an hour I take an acid neutraliser or sugar as it helps ... I dread the thought of getting them again. I hate the hiccups. If I hear someone with them, it makes me cringe. I’ve had enough hiccups to last a lifetime."