updated 7/1/2004 11:12:26 AM ET 2004-07-01T15:12:26

It took more than holding his breath or a scare to cure Shane Shafer of his hiccups.

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After seven months of constant, bark-like hiccups, a first-of-its-kind operation has returned normal life to the 50-year-old Texas man.

Shafer’s speech is now a hoarse whisper — a side effect of the electronic device that cured him, one generally used to treat epilepsy.

But for the first time since November, he can eat, sleep and talk without a bark-like hiccup every three to four seconds.

“Even something as simple as a kiss is now performed without a hiccup,” said his wife, Lori Shafer.

Surgeons implanted a vagal nerve stimulator in Shafer’s chest June 23 in New Orleans. It was activated last week.

The couple wed in May 2003, on the first anniversary of the first of three strokes that apparently damaged Shafer’s brain stem, leading to the hiccups.

“We had just recently started dating when he had his stroke. We tried to take the negative day of the stroke and make it positive, so the next year we got married,” Lori Shafer said.

Then, around Thanksgiving, the hiccups began. They got worse with the new year.

Doctors tried a number of drugs, including tranquilizers and seizure drugs.

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