It was 1:43 a.m. I know because as I was jolted into an unwanted state of wakefulness, the first thing I observed were the red numerals glowing insistently from my alarm clock. I lay there for a few seconds wondering what had happened, when that which had first caused me to awaken, convulsed me second time. A hiccup!
In all of my many years, I can’t remember ever having a case of the hiccups in the middle of the night, but I did last night and it was a world class case of them I might add.
My normal procedure for treating the hiccups is to wait for one to strike, then to quickly take a deep breath and hold it while focusing all of my mental powers on not allowing my diaphragm to move. It’s as if I were pearl diving while attempting a Vulcan mind meld.
Truth be known, I’m not sure I could voluntarily make my diaphragm move on a good day, so why do I think I can keep it from moving involuntarily? Beats me too, but it seems to work more often than not.
While I was laying there in the dark attempting self-asphyxiation, I was struck by how little I knew about hiccups and decided then and there to learn more; but to do so no earlier than the next day.
Somewhere back in my grade school days, I had learned that hiccups, or hiccoughs if you prefer the more eloquent European spelling, are simply involuntary spasms of the diaphragm, the membrane which keeps your lungs separated from the rest of the equipment in your body cavity. Medically speaking, a hiccup is a myoclonic jerk. Trust me, I’ve known a few of those in my day and I’d rank a good case of hiccups right up there with the worst of them.
In full blown medical jargon, hiccups are known as Synchronous Diaphragmatic Flutters or SDFs.
The next time you’re stricken, go up to someone you know and say, “I’m having a synchronous diaphragmatic flutter! Can you help me?” and see what kind of response you receive. It might be interesting, but be careful of whom and where you ask for such aid.
It came as no surprise to me that medical science really doesn’t know what causes hiccups. Neither do they know the cause of the brain freeze that you get when you eat ice cream or a slushie too quickly. You’d think that after hundreds of years of poking and probing around inside of cadavers, as well as real live people, they could come up with a few answers.
One proposition is that hiccups are one of those evolutionary left-overs or remnants which are no longer required to allow our bodies to function normally, but which nature has left by the biological roadside in order to stump future generations of doctors and scientists.
It is suggested that hiccuping is akin to the manner in which amphibians, tadpoles and salamanders for example, gulp air in order to push it across their gills thus allowing them to breathe. Having observed some of my relatives in the act of hiccuping, I must admit that there may be something to that hypothesis.
In any event, I was able to quell my nocturnal bout of synchronous diaphragmatic flutters and after completing my research am a better man for it.
Live long and prosper!