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Curious Case: Why One Woman Had to Be Carried Upside Down to Live


“So you’re conscious upside down but not right side up?”

Louis Janeira, an emergency room doctor in Indiana, and nurses were baffled when a patient was brought in carried by her heels, upside down.

Janeira recounts this as one of the most curious cases he has come across in the ER for Discover Magazine, stating the woman's husband -- who is described as seven-foot tall giant -- refused to set her right side up:

“Put her down now!” I recognized the stern voice of Herb, one of our security guards.

“Get a stretcher, stat,” said Ellie, the head nurse.

“You’re hurting her,” a woman yelled.

I ran to the ambulance bay, rounded a corner, and saw a huge man, seven-foot-something, holding a petite woman, maybe five feet tall, by her feet, her head dangling down. “I have to hold her this way,” the man insisted.

“I’m fine,” said the woman through her dangling long black hair. “I feel OK now.”


“So you’re conscious upside down but not right side up?” Janeira recalls asking.

It turns out the woman, who Janeira calls Mary, had been in the hospital a day before with a dangerously slow heartbeat. Needing to conduct a series of tests on Mary, Janeira and his staff insisted they had to lay her down, against the wishes of her husband. Within just a few minutes of laying Mary down for tests, she began to faint and her heart rate faltered. The second her husband held her upside down though, the monitor registering her heartbeat began to beep normally again.

"I'm back," Janeira remembers Mary saying.

Then it clicked for Janeira what was going on. A piece of Mary's pacemaker became dislodged and when she was held upside down it reconnected:

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

Janeira explains that Mary was taken to the electrophysiology lab -- by her ankles -- to have this piece fixed, leaving him and the rest of the ER staff baffled at what they had just seen. But, the next day, Janeria says he heard a familiar voice. Mary had returned, standing on her own two feet, saying he was right in his diagnosis and she was "all fixed up."

Be sure to check out Janeira's full narrative here.

(H/T: Gizmodo)

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