St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message

After 37 days of hiccuping, silence

A hypnotic trance does the trick for the long-suffering Jennifer Mee.

Published March 2, 2007

As her mother, Rachel Robidoux looks on, Jennifer Mee, 15, is interviewed during the MJ Morning Show at Clear Chanel radio on Thursday morning.

[Times photo: Carrie Pratt]
[Times photo: Mary Jane Park]
Jennifer takes the FCAT at home on Thursday alongside Pinellas County Homebound Program teacher Karen Ardis.
  • Special report

  • ST. PETERSBURG - As she came out of a hypnotic trance Wednesday, Jennifer Mee started to tear up.

    After 37 days of hiccups, her spasms had stopped.

    She looked at Debbie Lane, the Palm Harbor hypnotist who offered to treat her for free, and said her first uninterrupted words: "I love you."

    The two women hugged.

    In that moment, the 15-year-old regained some of the normalcy she lost over the past few weeks as people throughout the world became fixated with her disorder.

    During her first, nearly hiccup-free day (she still has a few strays) on Thursday, Jennifer sent text messages to friends, went shopping for a new outfit and took the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test at home, administered by a school tutor.

    That was after she granted a bunch of interviews but before she flew to New York to appear on the Today show this morning.

    She is eager to get back to her classes, reconnect with friends and spend Friday nights at the movies. The ninth-grader had to stop going to Northeast High School on Jan. 23 when she started hiccuping during a science lesson.

    She's also asked her family to strike a word from its vocabulary: "Never use that word again," she told her mother. "Never say the 'H' word again."

    The St. Petersburg Times first reported her story on Valentine's Day. Her mother, Rachel Robidoux, called the newspaper in hopes that readers might be able to help Jennifer, whose hiccups occurred about 50 times a minute.

    No one is certain why the spasms ceased. It could have been any number of things, or even a combination.

    "We'll never say, 'I know for sure,' " said her stepfather, Chris Robidoux. "I'm just glad that she's better."

    This week, she has had appointments with an infectious-disease specialist, a neurologist and an acupuncturist. She is taking a couple of new prescription drugs. She tried the Hic-Cup, a patented device that seemed to ease her condition. She also spoke by phone with a California faith healer Wednesday, who correctly predicted the hour she would feel relief.

    Dr. Eric Springer, a St. Petersburg chiropractor who also treated her at no charge, said Jennifer had a total of five adjustments over one week. He used a different technique on Wednesday, he said.

    "I'm happy that everyone worked together for the benefit of Jen," he said in an e-mail to the Times. "What a great girl."

    The international attention to their daughter's plight has been phenomenal, Chris Robidoux said. The family moved to Florida from Vermont four years ago, and he admits he has had a skeptic's view of the Sunshine State. Until now.

    "I never realized there were so many good people out there," he said. "Without sounding corny, God bless the USA. We didn't feel so alone. I heard about remedies I never even dreamed of. It's eye-opening."

    But the attention also has been exhausting and disruptive. The telephone rings constantly. "I wish this had an on/off switch," Chris Robidoux said Thursday as it rang yet again.

    He turned 37 on Sunday. His birthday cake is still in the refrigerator, untouched. Not that he's complaining.

    "I learned that family is tight," he said.

    Everybody looks forward to resuming daily routines, Rachel Robidoux said.

    "It's been pretty rough doing doctors' appointments, media, work, dealing with the family issues. It's been a little stressful."

    Times staff writer Brendan Watson contributed to this report.

    [Last modified March 1, 2007, 23:20:30]

    Share your thoughts on this story

    [an error occurred while processing this directive]
    Subscribe to the Times
    Click here for daily delivery
    of the St. Petersburg Times.

    Email Newsletters