Her longevity is a miracle and her case exceptional: Rose Marie Bentley, who died at 99 years old in 2017, has lived all her life with inverted organs. The American woman, who lived near Portland, had situs inversitus with levocardia, a rare malformation. Having donated her body to science, she unknowingly gave the opportunity to students who dissected her body to make this discovery, as reported at the annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists in Orlando, Florida .
In the spring of 2018, five medical students at the University of Portland open the thorax of a woman who died on October 11, 2017. They wanted examine her heart but realize that the vena cava, normally located to the right side of the heart, was not is not in its place. The students question their teacher. Warren Nielsen, one of them, told CNNtheir reactions: “And they 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!'”.
This malformation affects one baby out of 22,000 at birth, but only 5 to 13% of them manage to live past 5 years old. This woman was inverted: her liver was on the left instead of on the right, her stomach was on the right instead of on the left, and so on.
This late discovery is surprising. Rose Marie Bentley would have had the appendix, the gallbladder and the uterus removed. Only the doctor who performed the appendectomy had noticed that the organ was not in its usual location, but he had not informed the family.
“We had no reason to think that something was wrong,” says Ginger Robbins, one of her children. “She has always been very healthy,” she added. She only suffered from severe heartburn, probably related to her deformity.
According to one of the professors at the University of Portland, there is a 50 million chance of finding a case similar to that of Rose Marie Bentley around the world.