The workings of the human body are endlessly fascinating — particularly when you consider all the ways in which they can go wrong. I recently received a phone call from a doctor explaining that I suffered from a somewhat rare disease.
It caught me off guard, because I’d only experienced a few relatively minor symptoms. Who knew how long I’d had it?
Well, in the case of one woman from Molalla, Oregon, she lived for nearly 10 decades with what should’ve been a debilitating condition. According to CNN, her name was Rose Marie Bentley, but her story doesn’t really start until after her death.
See, Bentley decided to donate her body to science. After her passing at the ripe old age of 99, her body went to Oregon Health and Science University.
Bentley became part of a medical program dedicated to teaching young students about the intricacies of anatomy. As part of the University’s privacy protections, they didn’t let participants know any details about the cadavers.
However, as the students began to work, they discovered that Bentley had some startling abnormalities. For one thing, they couldn’t find her interior vena cava, a major vein on the right side of heart.
Warren Nielsen, a 26-year-old student, recalled how his professors “kind of rolled their eyes. Like, ‘How can these students miss this big vessel?’
“And they come over, and that’s when the hubbub starts. They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this is totally backwards!’”
Indeed, the majority — but not all — of Bentley’s internal organs were flipped around inside her body, a mostly mirrored picture of the way the human body should be. She had situs inversus.
What exactly is the disorder? Well, situs inversus is a genetic disorder that affects about one in every 10,000 people.
Bentley had a rarer type called situs inversus with levocardia. That means she had her heart on the left side of her body, but all of her other organs were flipped about mirror opposite.
Those with situs inversus with levocardia almost always end up with cardiac problems, although that didn’t happen to Bentley. She also had numerous other abnormalities.
For instance, one of her lungs only had two lobes instead of the normal three. Blood vessels sprouted in odd places and at odd angles.
Assistant professor Cam Walker told the Daily Mail, “I think the odds of finding another person like her may be as remote as one in 50 million. I don’t think any of us will ever forget it, honestly.”
Bentley’s family was surprised by the revelation. Her daughter, Ginger Robbins, said, “We had no reason to believe there was anything like that wrong.
“She was always very healthy. … She would’ve just thought it was funny.”
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