This is one topic I stumbled across by pure chance and I am so glad. Stemmed from an overheard conversation in a coffee shop, I have no option but to change certain details about the story. I sat next to the ‘John’ in a coffee shop, and couldn’t help listening to him tell his friends his intriguing story.
Right! The gist is that John lives in Manchester. Originally from an African country, he, like me, struggles to separate his cultural thoughts from his didactic knowledge. He traveled to his home country recently, and came back to England very ill. He had severe pains on the lower left side of his abdomen. He lost his appetite, felt sick and had diarrhoea. When he couldn’t walk without excruciating pain, his friends took him to hospital, where he was diagnosed with appendicitis. He had an appendicectomy and had since recovered. John went further to narrate how further checks showed that all his abdominal organs were on the “opposite side of his body.”
As soon as he finished his story, one of his friends blurted out that it couldn’t have been true as the appendix lies on the lower right side of the abdomen. I can’t even begin to describe the reactions of John’s friends. They talked animatedly about how John’s condition was a spiritual one. Some evil force had been used by “an enemy to spiritually move John’s organs about.” The anger they in their voices was palpable. John admitted that he was convinced that he had been jinxed by some kind of spell. His mum was consulting some traditional healer, he said. I sat there intrigued by whole story, and wondering what to believe. My coffee went cold as I pretended to read the papers, whilst engrossed in another man’s business. Questioning my own convictions, I made a mental note to research John’s symptoms.
Oh Biology and Enrique!!
Full of curiosity and cynicism, I got onto Google as soon as I got home. I thought to myself, if the doctor said it, then there are scientific explanations for it. At the same time, I could empathise with John because my cultural self also has spiritual explanations for things I don’t understand. Nonetheless, I searched for John’s symptoms and Oh Goodness!!!!…There are people born with their major organs placed on the reverse side of their original positions. The condition is called Situs Inversus and my idol Enrique Iglesias was born with it!!
Situs Inversus is a congenital condition which affects organs in the thorax and abdomen. The commonest type known is known as situs inversus totalis. People with situs inversus totalis have complete transposition (right to left) reversal of the organs in their thorax and abdomen. So, the heart is positioned on the right, not the usual left side (dextrocardia). Then the stomach, which is usually positioned in the left upper abdomen, is on the right side of the upper abdomen. This means that such people literally have their chest and abdominal organs totally flipped to the other side of their bodies!!! Another type of situs inversus involves abdominal organs placed in reversed or mirrored positions, whilst the heart remains in its usual left position (levocardia). The last type is situs ambiguous which involves organs placed ambiguously without any clearly defined pattern.
A very rare condition, Situs Inversus affects 1 in 20,000 people. Apparently Donny Osborn also has the same condition, and nearly died from misdiagnosed appendicitis. Most people with Situs Inversus do not have health issues, although heart problems sometimes occur in people with levocardia. Generally, people with situs inversus find out about their condition when they visit hospitals for unrelated issues. Mirror image twins are also linked to Situs Inversus.
After my research, I wondered about people with Situs Inversus who have their hearts on the right side. What happens to them when they collapse on the road or at home, and no heartbeats are felt on the usual left side? The advice is to search for heartbeats on both sides of the chest.
What would have happened to John if he was back home in his country, and his mother sought spiritual or traditional interventions, rather than John having an appendicectomy? I think he would have probably died. I believe that John’s diagnosis of appendicitis is true. I don’t believe that any evil spell was cast on him, at least not in this case. I despair at the thought of an innocent person, most probably an old woman of low economic status, being accused of being “evil” and causing John’s apparent Situs Inversus. In as much as I applaud and respect people’s beliefs, I frown at those beliefs that lead to the stigmatisation of other human beings. If only humans can see the amazing way we are created, some medical mysteries will be taken with much valour.
Image courtesy of Google Image.