Rose Marie Phelps had a rare condition called situs inversus with levocardia, where the location of all vital organs in the body is not in the known places. This, however, did not affect her in any way throughout her life.
What are the chances that people are born special? The often used phrase 'one in a million' is commonly meant to describe the uniqueness of a person and how special they are. However, this is more a figure of speech rather than a scientifically proven fact. But what if science itself proves that a person is '1 in 50 million'? This was the case of Rose Marie Phelps who was born in 1918 in Waldport, a near the Oregon coast reports CNN. Although deceased for a short while, Phelps is a medical marvel who has left the medical community and science in sheer awe. The reason for this - most of Phelps' vital organs are reversed or in an abnormal position inside her body, a condition called situs inversus with levocardia. It's as if someone opened up a person and was holding a mirror to him or her. Although Phelps is not the only one with the condition where the location of all vital organs in the body are not in known places. However, she is unique in the fact that she faced no health complications throughout her nearly 100-year existence and lived a happy and hearty life. Most people with situs inversus have severe heart problems and many do not even make it beyond the age of 5 years.
The fact that Phelps had the condition besides many other weird but wonderful abnormalities, made her truly unlike any other. "I think the odds of finding another person like her may be as remote as one in 50 million. I don't think any of us will ever forget it, honestly," said assistant professor Cameron Walker, from the Oregon Health and Science University where they dissected Phelps body and discovered the medical marvel.
Soon after her death, it was Phelps' wish that her body be donated for medical science. Last month, 26-year-old medical student Warren Nielsen and four of his classmates were at the dissection lab at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland. The cadaver they received was that of Phelps who died at the ripe age of 99 years due to natural causes. One could just imagine their utter confusion of the students while dissecting Phelps body.
The students' task was to open the body's chest cavity to examine the heart. Nielsen said, "Her heart was missing a large vein that's normally on the right side." He and his team called professors and asked them due to their inability to locate her organs. "Where's the inferior vena cava? Are we missing it? Are we crazy? And they (profs) 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!"
A normal human body has a large vein called the vena cava that follows the right side of the vertebral column. This curves under the liver and empty deoxygenated blood into the heart. Prof Walker said that Bentley's vein was on the left, and instead of terminating directly into the heart, "her vein 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. Normally speaking, none of us have a vessel that does that directly."
Prof. Walked described other abnormalities. He said, "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." Besides this, instead of the normal three lobes, Phelps had only two lobes. The right atrium of her heart was twice the normal size.
A number of Phelp's veins that drained the liver and other parts of the chest cavity were also either missing or sprouting from an unusual spot. People with Phelps' condition have severe congenital heart disease resulting in a very short life. However since she didn't have heart defects, Prof Walker said, "That is almost certainly the factor that contributed most to her long life." She, however, did suffer chronic heartburn but that was about it.
The youngest child of four, Phelps was a hairdresser by trade and also volunteered during World War II for one of the nurse's aid corps. She had five children with her husband, Jim Bentley, who himself donated his body for science after he died over a decade earlier than his wife. Throughout her life, there was no sign that Phelps had the condition except one time when her appendix was removed according to 66-year-old Louise Allee, one of Phelps' daughters. "The surgeon made a note that her appendix wasn't in the right spot when they took it out but never said anything to us. Nobody said a thing when they took her gallbladder out and did a hysterectomy, either," she said.