Woman lived to 99 while oblivious her organs were on the wrong side of her body
When US woman Rose Marie Bentley died less than a year short of her 100th birthday, doctors make a remarkable discovery.
Ms Bentley may well have been the world’s oldest person to have lived with their internal organs reversed and sitting on the opposite side of their body.
Only about one in 50 million people born with the rare congenital condition called situs inversus live long enough to become an adult.
Ms Bentley lived to the grand old age of 99 without ever realising her liver, stomach and other abdominal organs were all in a different spot to practically every other human being.
During a dissection after Ms Bentley passed away, it was discovered the organs were transposed right to left.
A group of medical students at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) made the astounding discovery during an anatomy class, after Ms Bentley donated her body to science.
Ms Bentley’s case was presented at the 2019 American Association of Anatomists Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology.
The genetic condition is very rare, occurring in about 1 out of 10,000 births. A small percentage of people born with the condition also have life-threatening heart defects and other abnormalities.
Cam Walker, an assistant professor of anatomy at OHSU, who helped students unravel the mystery of Ms Bentley’s anatomy, said: “I knew something was up, but it took us a while to figure out how she was put together”.
The only clue anything might have been unusual during Ms Bentley’s lifetime came when she had her appendix removed, her daughter Louise Allee noted.
“The surgeon made a note that her appendix wasn’t in the right spot when they took it out … but never said anything to us,” Ms Allee, 66, said.
“Nobody said a thing when they took her gallbladder out and did a hysterectomy, either.”
According to her family, Ms Bentley, who died in October 2017, lived without any chronic conditions, aside from arthritis.
None of Ms Bentley’s children were aware of their mother’s transposed organs, and they believe she didn’t know, either.
Second-year medical student Warren Nielsen was one of many OHSU students who worked on Ms Bentley in 2018.
“It was quite amazing,” Mr Nielsen said.
“We were able to not only learn normal anatomy, but also all the anatomic variation that can occur. I grew to appreciate how she was able to live as long as she did. It made me wonder who she was. The experience has me looking forward to caring for patients and being able to apply what I’ve learned from her.”
One of Ms Bentley’s five children, Ms Allee said her mother would have enjoyed all the attention she was receiving.
“My mom would think this was so cool,” Ms Allee said.
“She would be tickled pink that she could teach something like this. She would probably get a big smile on her face, knowing that she was different, but made it through.”