The Amazing Story About a Woman Who Needed to Be Upside Down to Stay Alive

Illustration for article titled The Amazing Story About a Woman Who Needed to Be Upside Down to Stay Alive

Discover Magazine has an amazing story about how a woman needed to be carried upside down in order to stay alive. It sounds crazy but it's real. The reason she had to be held upside down was because her pacemaker had become disconnected from her heart and holding her upside down led the pacemaker to be reconnected.


Louis F. Janeira, a cardiac electrophysiologist, explains that before the pacemaker was installed, Mary, the upside down woman, had a complete heart block which slowed the heart rate dramatically (Mary's heart was beating at 40 beats per minute instead of 60-80). This caused her to faint and have seizures. Because of those episodes, the hospital implanted a pacemaker to boost her heartbeat. It worked for a little bit until she collapsed.

Mary's husband noticed that as he picked her up, she regained consciousness but when he put her upright, she would collapse again. In fact, every time he let her go upright after that, she would collapse. He deduced that she could only be conscious when she was upside down, thus he carried her upside down. Janeira, after questioning the sanity of them both, realized that that was because of the pacemaker.

"The pacemaker lead, the wire going from the pacemaker generator to your right ventricle, must have disconnected. Your coughing spell could have done it. Somehow, the lead reconnects when you are upside down and continues to stimulate the heart."

Pacemakers are made of a generator and a lead that sends electrical impulses to the heart. The lead tip is screwed directly into the heart muscle but in an extremely rare case, could dislodge. Mary's lead tip was dislodged and could only be reconnected while she was upside down. Janeira realized this and had her go to surgery to reconnect the tip and get her back into healthy, upright shape. Amazing. Read the whole story at Discover. [Discover via BoingBoing, Image Credit: Poulsons Photography/Shutterstock]


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