Last Night’s TV – The Man Who Can’t Stop Hiccupping

by Lynn Connolly

It sounds like a children’s book title, or a West End play, but this was of course all about Chris Sands, who was The Man of the title, and he literally couldn’t Stop Hiccupping.

Which, in theory, might’ve been amusing – as long as it’s happening to someone else – but it was far from it. As poor Chris said near the start of the film, his “baffling” problem “pretty much ruined” his life.

At first, much was made of the fact that doctors everywhere were stumped by what was causing Chris to hiccup constantly, however, salvation eventually came by way of a Japanese Neurologist who diagnosed a small tumour at the base of Chris’s brain.

And there came the most scary part of this film; as the British surgeon to whom Chris took his diagnosis explained, there was “zero margin for error.” In other words, a slight dither of the hand and Chris might well have died on the operating table.

So would he choose to have the surgery or would he carry on hiccupping all his life? He chose surgery, very bravely. I can only imagine the horror of going into an operating theatre knowing that there’s a very real chance you may never come out again.

One expects that I suppose of life-threatening illnesses; when the operation is all that could save you, but when it’s for something that – on the face of it – seems trivial, such as hiccups, it’s hard to understand putting your life on the line to be rid of them.

But only until you’ve seen this film and have seen for yourself how devastating Chris’s hiccups were to his life. He literally couldn’t do anything, and he tried really hard to find alternative cures. These included one well-meaning but, I suspect, rather mad, Japanese ‘practitioner’ who wanted to shove an enormous needle into an area behind Chris’s ribcage.

In broken English – provided rather charmingly by a Hello Kitty dictionary – we, and Chris heard that if he’d gone ahead with the ‘treatment’ one false move and it would’ve been “Sayonara”. Yikes.

Chris had also tried having surgery on his stomach for doctors here suspected he may have a problem with acid reflux. It didn’t work and again, one can only imagine the agony that hiccupping with a recently stitched up stomach would bring.

But throughout, Chris remained stoic and often remarkably cheery, even when his plight was taken up by The World’s Astonishing News in Japan and he became their cause célèbre du jour. But there, it was through his story being told on this programme that he came to the attention of the man who would make the first correct diagnosis Chris had ever had – Dr Kondo.

It was he who discovered the small tumour that was to lead ultimately to Chris’s salvation, but could so easily have led to his death. It was tense stuff as we watched the surgeon doggedly working to remove the tumour and saying, “Hush now please. This is the part of the operation where I kill him.”

He didn’t thank God and Chris has gone on to make a full recovery. Astonishing News indeed, and a very interesting film!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.