Man had hiccups for 68 years after scary work accident

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He served a life sentence in hiccups.

Thought having the hiccups for an hour was frustrating? An Iowa man likely made other hiccup sufferers count their blessing after enduring these irritating involuntary gasps for 68 years — and scoring a Guinness World Record along the way.

“I don’t know what it would be like not to have them,” Charles Osborne told the Associated Press in 1978 while discussing his ceaseless hiccup bouts. “I get so sore jerking all the time.”

The beleaguered fellow reportedly experienced 20 hiccups per waking minute for a total of 430 million during his lifetime, People reported.

Despite his debilitating condition, the irrepressible pig farmer remained positive and fun-loving, according to pal Kevern Koskovich, now 73. He said the “character” often greeted people with a “What the hell’s going on?”

Charles Osborne.
Osborne’s 68-year-long hiccup attack began after a hog butchering accident in 1922.

Born in 1883, Osborne said his lifelong malady began in 1922 when he had an accident working on a farm near Union, Nebraska.

“I was hanging a 350-pound hog for butchering,” Osborne recounted to People in 1982. “I picked it up and then I fell down.”

He initially didn’t think much of the incident until he started hiccuping nonstop.

For the uninitiated, hiccups are thought to originate in the brain and involve the involuntary contraction of the diaphragm and the shutting of the glottis — the opening to the vocal cords — which causes the recognizable “hic” sound, according to Science Alert.

Attacks — which can entail between four and 60 hiccups per minute — can be triggered by many things, including drinking or eating too much, getting excited or swallowing air when chewing gum, per Smithsonian Magazine.

Unhappy girl drinking a beverage.
Osborne’s nonstop affliction made him a global sensation, landing him appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and on Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” radio show.
Getty Images/iStockphoto

They generally occur for only a few minutes and are perceived more as an irritation than a cause for concern (although they can be warning signs of more serious conditions).

When they last for more than 48 hours, hiccups are considered chronic — Brazil’s former President Jair Bolsonaro was hospitalized in 2021 with this version.

Meanwhile, attacks persisting for over a month are deemed intractable, the super rare variety suffered by Osborne, which affects only 1 in 100,000 people.

Causes of long-term hiccups range from diabetes to cancer and alcoholism, per the Smithsonian.

It’s yet unclear what caused the farmer’s condition, but at a checkup following his 1922 tumble, the doctor said “that I busted a blood vessel the size of a pin in my brain,” Osborne recalled.

Physician Terence Anthoney postulated that the fall impacted the portion of his brain that inhibits the hiccuping mechanism.

Ali Seifi, a Texas neurosurgeon who invented a device that instantly relieves hiccups, posited that the old-timer could’ve sustained a minor injury during the fall that damaged his breathing muscles, thereby causing the incessant glottal episodes.

A woman suffering from morning sickness.
Long-term hiccups can be caused by afflictions ranging from diabetes to alcoholism.
Getty Images

Osborne continued to be plagued by his seemingly interminable gasps.

In 1978, 56 years into his hiccup attack, Osborne told the Associated Press that he’d “give everything I got in the world if I could get rid of them.”

Hoping to alleviate his Sisyphean affliction, the Iowan went to numerous doctors (once traveling as far as Alaska), but none were able to cure him.

He enjoyed a brief respite after receiving oxygen and carbon monoxide treatment at the Mayo Clinic, but he quit on account of not being able to safely respirate the toxic gas.

Osborne estimated that he’d received 4,000 letters from well-wishers touting folk remedies ranging from finger massages to pressing the chin.

One well-intentioned pal even tried to frighten the hiccups away by discharging a shotgun behind his head, which Osborne said startled him but didn’t “scare the hiccups out of me.”

Thankfully, Osborne has learned to mitigate the “hic” sound through breathing between hiccups like a diaphragmatic silencer — a technique he learned at the Mayo Clinic.

“He’d flex his chest three or four times every minute,” said Koskovich, adding, “You could tell he was hiccuping, but he wouldn’t make any noise.”

This suppression technique allowed Osborne to keep a lid on the hiccups to the point that he wouldn’t experience them in the night.

Nocturnal attacks are particularly problematic as they keep the sufferer up at night, thereby causing chronic and possibly fatal exhaustion.

The resourceful patient also circumvented severe weight loss — another debilitating complication — by blending his food to make it more digestible.

“I’ve worn out two Osterizers,” declared the 5’4″ farmer, who was able to maintain a healthy weight of 145 pounds.

Despite his tortuous ailment, the dogged fellow was able to live a long and fulfilling life, during which he worked numerous jobs, including farm machinery salesman and cattle-and-hog auctioneer.

He also married twice — courting his second wife between gasps — and fathered eight children.

Meanwhile, Osborne’s nonstop affliction also made him a global sensation, landing him appearances on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” and on Robert Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” radio show.

“Charles Osborne has not only survived; he has thrived,” Sioux City Journal writer Bob Davis wrote in 1984.

Then, in 1990, Osborne’s hiccups inexplicably stopped — nearly 70 years after they began.

The old-timer passed away in May 1991, meaning that he enjoyed at least several months that were blessedly hiccup-free.

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