In what could be one of the rare cases, a woman in died at the age of 99 due to natural causes due to a rare congenital condition in which her organs were on the wrong side of her body.
Rose Marie Bentley, a pet feed store owner, passed away in October 2017. She donated her body for research at a university in Portland, Oregon.
Doctors and students in an anatomy class noticed that many of her organs were not in the place where they should be. They were astonished that Mrs. Bentley led such a long and healthy life in spite of her rare medical condition.
The condition she had was situs inversus with levocardia, which means her stomach, liver, and other abdominal organs were on the right side instead of the left side, a kind of mirror image of normal human anatomy. However, her heart was in the usual position i.e. on the left side of the body.
Assistant professor of anatomy at Oregon Health and Science University Dr. Cam Walker said, “The condition is surpassingly unusual.” He helped students in his anatomy class identify her condition.
Dr. Walker told the BBC, “The discovery began while his students were dissecting the cardiovascular cavity and were unable to locate a major vessel. The finding started a ‘cascade effect’ as they realized that Mrs. Bentley’s body was particularly unique.”
Mrs. Bentley’s condition is rare, which occur about once in every 22,000 births. Situs inversus with levocardia is associated with life-threatening cardiac issues and other abnormalities, making Mrs. Bentley’s long and healthy life even more exceptional, explained Dr. Walker.
Dr. Walker also explained that only one in 50 million people born with this rare congenital condition live into adulthood. He and his team believe that she may be the oldest person known to live with this rare condition. Researchers are aware of only two such cases where patients lived until the age of 70.
Dr. Walker said, “None of my colleagues had ever seen a donor with situs inversus and some of them had been teaching for more than 30 years. I’ve never seen anything like that.” He added, “The students, I think, will never forget it.”
Mrs. Bentley lived most of her life in Molalla, Oregon. She used to run Bentley Feed Store with her husband.
Louise Allee, one of her five children, told the university that her mother would love the attention her rare condition is receiving. Ms. Allee said, “My mom would think this was so cool.”
She lived a long and healthy life without any chronic conditions, except for arthritis, according to her children.
Inspired by a poem by Robert Noel Test about remembering departed loved ones, both Mr. and Mrs. Bentley decided to donate their bodies to the Oregon Health and Science University. Ms. Allee told the university, “She would probably get a big smile on her face. Knowing that she was different, but made it through.”