Bizarre hiccups cure sets off medical marathon
By SANDRA OTTO CUMMINGS
LEANING BACK in his chair relaxing after a workday at a chemical company, 60-year-old Donald Logan felt the hiccups starting. They’d been doing that since he was 18, but since1988, they had worsened–striking regularly and without warning for days at a time.
‘‘I can take a deep breathe; I can take a glass of water and they’d be there,‘‘ the Long Branch resident said. Logan knew what worked: Taking a toothbrush or the earpiece of his eyeglass frame, he would reach back in his mouth to gag himself. But late that night of Sept 4th ,as he plied the eyeglasses, a hinge snapped.
The 6-inch earpiece went sliding down his throat, setting off a medical marathon. It ended the next night at Riverveiw Medical Center, Red Bank, with an operation that ‘‘everyone at Riverveiw was talking about,” said Dr. Glenn Morganstern, Shrewsbury, Logan’s family doctor.
Dr. Frank J. Scaccia, the Red Bank ear. nose and throat specialist who removed the earpiece in a 15- minute procedure, has pulled a lot of objects out of windpipes. But the patients are usually 3-year-olds and the objects more commonly popcorn, beads, broccoli or bobby pins.
‘‘What’s so unusual about his case is here’s a grown man. Someone of this age and type (of object) is unusual,” he said.
Two-thirds of the eyeglass frame earpiece was in Logan’s left lung. Scaccia said, the rest still in his windpipe leading to the lungs.
‘‘It was very dangerous. He could have died from it,” Scaccia said. ‘‘It could have eroded the trachea (windpipe). He could have coughed it up and had it completely obstruct the airway.”
Logan didn’t get to Scaccia immediately. Realizing what happened. Logan said he dropped to his hands and knees as he tried to fish the piece from his throat–calling out to his daughter to call an ambulance. He went first to the emergency room at Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, where Logan said a nurse was able to grab the eyeglass piece with an instrument.
‘‘She had it,” he said. ‘‘She said she’d pull it out, but she wanted to wait for the doctor.”
But Logan said by the time the doctor arrived 20 minutes later, the ear piece had gotten away.
‘‘The doctor said, ‘‘It’s in your stomach. Don’t worry about it,” Logan said ‘‘It would pass out (through the intestines) in a day or so.”
Cathy Goetz, medical center spokeswoman, said no one at the hospital even saw the earpiece. The woman who treated Logan first was actually an emergency room doctor who sedated him and used the necessary equipment to look down Mr. Logan’s throat and saw nothing.”
She called an ear, nose and throat specialist “who looked down Mr. Logan’s throat with different equipment and saw nothing.”
By then, since Logan was‘‘ so much improved and the two examinations had shown nothing,” Goetz said,‘‘ the specialist concluded the supposed foreign body had passed into the patient’s stomach and therefore could not cause him any further respiratory distress.”
The next day, Logan said he still felt the piece inside. He’d cough and it would seem to rise in his throat, but he still couldn’t grab it. He went to Morgenstern, who sent him to Dr. Brian Boyle, a Red Bank specialist in treating digestive tract.
At Riverview, Boyle said he passed a scope down Logan’s throat to see whether the errant eyeglass piece was in the esophagus or stomach. In the windpipe, he saw a white area that looked like the target.
Boyle sent Logan to Scaccia, and he was in the operating room two hours later. With his patient anesthetized and attached to a ventilator providing oxygen to his lungs, Scaccia slipped a long tube called a bronchoscope between Logan’s vocal cords to locate the eyepiece.
Then Scaccia quickly replaced that and the breathing tube with a rigid 18-inch long bronchoscope. He slipped a long, thin, grasping forceps through the bronchoscope’s 1/2 inch diameter center to grab the inhaled eyeglass earpiece and withdraw it.
“ I had to make sure I didn’t drop it back and obstruct the airway,” Scaccia said.
Logan takes his experience in stride:
‘‘‘I roll with the punches and the hiccups,” he joked. He won’t change his way of relieving them.
‘‘It could happen again, but this time I’ll be more cautious.” he said–making sure he leans forward instead of back to grab himself and ‘‘use the toothbrush more.”
Scaccia had another idea ‘‘I told him to get contact lenses.”
As medical director of the facility, Dr. Frank Scaccia is a uniquely qualified Dual Board Certified Facial Plastic Surgeon and Otolaryngologist (Ear Nose & Throat/ENT) who specializes in cosmetic surgery, plastic surgery, rhinoplasty, facelift and treatment of sinus/nasal disorders.