A year ago, medical students at the Oregon Health and Science University went into an anatomy class to dissect human cadavers. One team of students was having a problem identifying organs in the body of Rose Marie Bentley, who died at the age of 99. They called over their professor for help.
But as the students and their professors were soon to find out, Bentley was special, so special she deserved her own unique spot in medical literature and history books.
The reason? A condition called situs inversus with levocardia, in which most vital organs are reversed -- almost like a mirror inside the body. That, along with a host of other weird but wonderful abnormalities, made Bentley a sort of medical unicorn.
"I think the odds of finding another person like her may be as remote as one in 50 million," said assistant professor Cameron Walker, who teaches the Foundations of Clinical Anatomy class at Oregon Health and Science University. "I don't think any of us will ever forget it, honestly."
The reason Bentley's condition is so rare is that the heart defects that occur with situs inversus with levocardia are usually deadly. Only 5% to 13% of those who have it live past the age of five. Bentley, on the other hand, lived almost a century without knowing her organs were backward. Outside of chronic heartburn, she lived a healthy life. At the same time, she considered it important to contribute to medical knowledge by donating her body to science. Read about Rose Marie Bentley and her unique body at CNN.
(Image credit: Oregon Health and Science University)