tampabay.com

Hiccups heard round the world

By MARY JANE PARK
Published February 17, 2007


Her unstoppable hiccups have made St. Petersburg's Jennifer Mee a media star.

The 15-year-old Northeast High School student appeared Friday on NBC's Today show, with hosts Meredith Vieira and Matt Lauer, and New York University Medical Center gastroenterologist Dr. Roshini Raj.

The hiccups subsided briefly, as Jennifer talked about the physical pain she is suffering and recounted how the unusual bout has prompted people to accuse her of being pregnant or abusing alcohol. But as soon as she stopped chatting, the spasms resumed.

There was no surcease even after a hug from country singer Keith Urban, another Friday guest on the show.

The public flooded NBC with quirky hiccup cures, just as they did the St. Petersburg Times when it first reported the story early this week.

"The response was immediate," said Megan Kopf, a Today spokeswoman. "We have received thousands of e-mails and hundreds of calls to our switchboard with suggestions.

"It's just amazing how fascinated the viewers are and how fascinated the people on the show are."

In a second segment on the show, Jennifer and her mother, Rachel Robidoux, talked with Natalie Morales and Raj, who mentioned treatments as varied as acupuncture, chiropractic manipulation and massage therapy, injections, intravenous medication and endoscopy.

"There are some options, I think, still to be tried," Raj said.

Jennifer's hiccups started on Jan. 23. A recent bout with strep throat could be contributing to the girl's spasms, Raj said.

Numerous newspapers throughout the country published the story, and Jennifer also appeared on ABC television's Good Morning America and on Fox News' Tampa Bay station, WTVT-TV Ch. 13.

Rachel Robidoux and Jennifer probably will spend the weekend in New York, said Kopf, the Today spokeswoman, and they could appear on the morning show again.

It is Jennifer's first trip to New York City and her first plane ride. She's seen a couple of doctors while in New York.

Robidoux said it's enlightening to see that so many people care about her daughter's plight.

But "I don't see any improvement so far hiccup-wise," she added.

1,248,000 Estimated times Jennifer Mee has hiccuped since Jan. 23.

716 Number of readers who have called Times reporter Mary Jane Park with suggestions for how to cure Jennifer's hiccups.

822 Number of readers who have e-mailed the reporter about Jennifer's hiccups. Some offered similar stories. Most offered their home remedies.

88 Number of letters about hiccups sent to the letters to the editor section of the St. Petersburg Times.