When five medical students recently gathered around a cadaver in an Oregon Health and Science University dissection lab, they never expected to find organs in the wrong places when examining 99 year old Rose Marie Bentley’s body.
Once in a 50 Million Kind of Gal
After opening Bentley’s chest cavity, Warren Nielson, one of the students, noticed that something was missing. In particular, they couldn’t find the large vein that should have been normally on the right side of her heart.
Nielson called out to the professors, exclaiming, “Where’s the inferior vena cava? Are we missing it? Are we crazy?” He said that they then kind of rolled their eyes. “Like, how can these students miss this big vessel?”
“And they came over and that’s when the hubbub starts”, he continued. “They’re like oh, my God, this is totally backwards!”
Organs in the Wrong Places – Totally Backwards
What they found was that Bentley’s vein was on the left, and that instead of leading directly into the heart the normal way, her vein instead “continued through her diaphragm, along the thoracic vertebrae, up and around and over the aortic arch and then emptied into the right side of her heart”, said assistant professor, Cameron Walker.
And that wasn’t all! Walker continued, “Instead of having a stomach on the left, which is normal, her stomach was on the right. Her liver, which normally occurs predominantly on the right, was predominantly on the left. Her spleen was on the right side instead of its normal occurrence on the left. And then the rest of her digestive tract, the ascending colon, was inverted as well.”
This condition only happens in about 1 out of 22,000 babies and is usually associated with severe congenital heart disease, and only 5-13% live past the age of 5. Miracualously, Bentley never had any heart defects.
Walker believes this is what contributed to her long life of 99 years. She was truly 1 in 50 million, thanks to this, and the other incredibly rare anatomical abnormalities that were found by the school’s team.