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Woman lived to 99 despite having organs on wrong side of body

Email US woman Rose Marie Bentley lived to 99, despite her organs being in the wrong place

Posted April 10, 2019 12:32:58

Rose Bentley wears a yellow t-shirt and a pink party crown and sits in a wheelchair looking at the camera Photo: Rose Bentley's unusual medical condition was only discovered after her death. (Courtesy Bentley Family via AP) Related Story: Scientists discover new human organ Map: United States

Rose Marie Bentley was an avid swimmer, raised five children, helped her husband run a feed store, and lived to the ripe age of 99. It was only after she died that medical students discovered that all her organs — except for her heart — were in the wrong place.

Key points:

  • The condition, situs inversus with levocardia, occurs in only one in every 22,000 births
  • Rose Marie Bentley had at least two operations but doctors never diagnosed her
  • The previous longest-living person with situs inversus with levocardia lived to 73

The discovery of the rare condition, which was presented this week to a conference of anatomists, was astounding — especially because Ms Bentley had lived so long.

People with the condition, known as situs inversus with levocardia,often have life-threatening cardiac ailments and other abnormalities, according to Oregon Health & Science University.

Neither Ms Bentley nor her family were ever aware of the unusual condition, which OHSU says occurs only once in every 22,000 births.

Cameron Walker, an assistant professor of anatomy at the university, said his class was examining the heart of a cadaver last year when they noticed the blood vessels were different.

When they opened the abdominal cavity, they saw that all the other organs were on the wrong side. The unusual blood vessels helped the heart compensate.

Professor Walker described his reaction to the discovery as "definitely a mix of curiosity, fascination and a sense of wanting to explore a little bit of a medical mystery — a medical marvel really — that was in front of us".

"I would say the students felt something very similar," he said.

Ms Bentley, who lived in Molalla, 40 kilometres south of Portland, led a normal life. Her only recurrent physical complaint was arthritis, her daughter Louise Allee said.

But there were signs.

Two operations but doctors discovered nothing

When Ms Bentley was in her 50s, she underwent a hysterectomy, and the doctor also wanted to remove the appendix. But he couldn't find it, Ms Allee said.

And when Ms Bentley had her gallbladder removed at least a decade later, it was on the opposite side of where it should have been, she said.

"No one said a thing," Ms Allee said. "I was surprised. This was before they did it with a scope, and she had a good-sized incision. You'd think they would have said something, but they didn't."

Ms Bentley agreed to donate her body to OHSU, where the discovery about all her organs was made.

"This is an important case that really gave us an opportunity to talk about the importance of future clinicians, paying attention to subtle anatomic variations, not just large anatomic variations, in terms of addressing their future patients as individuals," Professor Walker said.

"Don't judge a book by its cover, and always check and see what you've got before you talk about care."

He researched how long people with the condition had lived and found no documented cases in which a person lived beyond age 73. Ms Bentley surpassed that by 26 years.

Ms Allee said her mother would have been delighted that the donation of her body led to a learning experience.

"She would have been tickled to know she could educate with something unusual. Dad would have loved to know about it so he could tease her," she said.

Ms Bentley's husband, James, died about 15 years ago.
AP

Topics: medical-sciences, science, health, weird-and-wonderful, united-states

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