Oregon native Rose Marie Bentley passed away at the ripe old age of 99 with absolutely no idea of her remarkable anatomy.
For nearly a century, Bentley lived a normal life with her family in the rural town of Molalla in northwestern Oregon.
After her death, when her body was donated to the Oregon Health & Science University's Body Donation Program, researchers discovered that Bentley's anatomy is extraordinarily unique with her organs positioned in unusual places throughout her body.
An Extremely Rare Anatomy That Surprised Students
According to OHSU, the condition is called situs inversus with levocardia, which is when the liver, stomach and other abdominal organs are transposed from the right side to the left, but her heart is still on the left side of her chest.
It's an extremely rare condition that only occurs in one out of 22,000 births. Even more remarkable is how Bentley lived to be nearly 100 years old when situs inversus with levocardia is often linked to life-threatening cardiac issues and other abnormalities.
Cam Walker, Ph.D., an assistant professor of anatomy at the OHSU Anatomical Services Center, estimates that only one in 50 million individuals with this specific condition live long enough to reach adulthood.
In many ways, Bentley is a wonderful anomaly.
Extraordinary Anatomy With No Problems
Despite the unique characteristics of her anatomy, Bentley lived her life relatively problem-free without chronic conditions apart from arthritis. While she's had a few organs removed, she recovered well and only one of the surgeons who operated on her took note of her oddly placed organs.
Other unique features of her anatomy include an abnormality known as hiatal hernia and an unusually long superior vena cava vein, according to IFLScience. Three of her liver veins functioned independently by draining directly into the right atrium of the heart instead of passing through the inferior vena cava.
"It was quite amazing," Warren Nielsen, one of the OHSU students who worked with Bentley, recalls. "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."
Walker and colleague Mark Hankin, Ph.D. presented their findings at the 2019 American Association of Anatomists Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology.