Anyone Good At Reckoning Odds?

I usually like the drive to Hereford.

Beyond Worcester and its dizzying succession of ring-road roundabouts, is one of my favourite spots: the Malvern hills soar nearly 1400ft out of the Worcestershire plain. The road skirts the north end of the raised spine and then threads its way through the distinctly less cosy and populated Herefordshire countryside – you pass the Prancing Pony inn – to where Hereford nestles under the brooding shoulder of the Brecon Beacons, the beginning of the Welsh mountains. And, sticking with the Tolkien motif, the ‘Beacon’ terminology refers to the signal fire chain that the Welsh used to light when they saw the bloody English invading yet again. The Welsh Marches have a lively history.

You read this blog for the travel and history notes, yes?

Well, Hereford County Hospital is easy enough to find, although my Sat Nav, Tom, decided to have a complete tizwas when faced with some roundabouts that he was evidently rather older than, and responded to my torrents of abuse by attempting to send me up a one way street when I left the hospital.

When I left the hospital, officially sans gallstones, but with a back-to-front heart.  


I thought that having two uteruses/uteri/wombs/whateverthefuck was probably enough anatomical abnormality for one woman. But no! My creator was evidently holding the instructions the wrong fucking way round – as well as losing track of what he’d already done and what he hadn’t.

The aorta – that’s the biiiiiiiiig Majorly and Highly Important main artery that rises up out of the top of the heart – should curve over to the left (patient’s left, remember) and down into the abdomen, like so.

The vena cava, which is the biiiiiiiiig Majorly and Highly Important main vein that brings the blood back, should run into the heart on the right hand side like so.


And mine… ummm… don’t.  They are completely transposed, all the way down into my abdomen. And I can’t show you a picture of that because – and you’ll never guess what – I can’t find one that shows it, apart from x-ray films, because it appears to be… rare.

(‘You’re anatomically very special!’ enthused my GP’s clerk this morning.

‘I was already special’, I snarled at him.)

‘I’m sure your heart will continue to work fine!’ consultant radiologist said. ‘Although your GP might think a closer look is a good idea, particularly taking your didelphys into account. And you need to be very careful if you ever have surgery to make sure your doctors know about it, particularly abdominal surgery.’

Ahh. You mean, the type of surgery I was supposed to have this month but put off until next year because totally BusyBusyBusy?




30 Responses

  1. I only recently saw a story about a man with this sort of arrangement, and the story commented that it was not common, but not a particular problem except when, like this man, one needed a heart transplant. Writer stressed that the rearrangement had nothing to do with the need for the transplant, but did complicate the connection of the new heart. However, the gentleman in question was doing very well after the transplant. But, I want an update on how you are feeling, what it might be, and what might be done about it. I had my money on gallstones. I would be very happy to take you off my worry list.

  2. Oh dear Lawd. Really?
    Well. We did know you were unique and amazing, and everything, with or without the anatomy. And as long as you can live a nice loooong life, that’s the main thing.

    And wow, lucky to be too busy for the lap, eh?
    That was a VERY NEAR THING. Doesn’t bear thinking about.

    So no answer to the awful middle of night sickness? Or could that be related?

  3. I do actually love the historical tidbits. Then again, I’m watching TimeTeam online right now so am probably a bit biased.

    I did once get an A+ in advanced biostats, but I’m afraid this might be beyond me. Taking stats on the prevalence of uterus didelphys e.g.: 5:10,000 and any congenital cardiac abnormality, it seems to be about 2:100 i.e.: 2%, and obviously likely to be quite a bit lower given the type of cardiac abnormality. This assumes that they are independent of each other, which may not be the case, and then you would be looking at a lower number too.

    Perhaps you should do the lottery this week, just for shits and giggles?

    In all seriousness though, I hope this doesn’t have you feeling too discombobulated. And that the medical investigations come up with something treatable, rather than just “ooo, well isn’t THIS interesting”.

    • doing a quick Google using the proper terms (thanks to g), I’d revise my estimate downwards to between 2 and 5 in a thousand. Maybe less.

  4. While, that is certainly interesting, Twangy asks the right question – what’s with the middle of the night sickness? I would have to assume it’s not your f’ed up innards, due to the fact that I don’t think your organs have recently rearranged themselves. Is it the camera and CT scans, then?

    Did you know that when you centrifuge frog eggs, you can get tadpoles with their organs on the outside? Did your mother go to a carnival shortly after your conception or something? 🙂

  5. Ack! Extraneous comma (after while)! Sorry.

  6. What, so having a wonky uterus wasn’t enough, you had to double wonk?

    (That almost sounds naughty, but isn’t. Really.)

    I’m glad they caught it though, babe. That’s surely the, um. the good news, so to speak?

    (Audrey Niffenegger’s new book talks about a twin who has the same wonky heart as you do. You know, in case you wanted to reach out and feel the fiction.)

    Also? A’s comment about centrifuge and carnivals? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    • I’m currently reading that book! and starting to be annoyed with the twin, for reasons other than her wonky internal organs (she has situs inversus, where everything is the other way around: odds are <1: 10,000 and your liver's on the left. hopefully it still filters wine effectively).

      • Don’t give up. The book rocks. Seriously. Even though yes, there are moments you want to smack that twin (she says, the mother of twins, who has an anti-smacking policy.)

  7. Um, what in the world WERE your body patterning genes up to when you were developing, anyway? Sipping martinis? Watching TV?

    I just finished my unit on the cardiovascular system in my intro biology class. Is your entire heart a mirror image, or just the great vessels?

  8. Hmm, yes, I wonder if the didelphys and now the cardiac abnormalities are related, as QoB says, so that it’s all not as unlikely as you might think. I am glad that the latter don’t seem to have many implications for you (but also very glad that they discovered them before any surgery…!).

    I figure you must need to get the results back to your other doctors before they go on figuring out what your attacks are caused by? I really hope you find some possible solutions soon.

  9. Blimey.

    I mean, gosh.

  10. Blimey indeed. Glad you found out before the op .

  11. Mullerian Duct anomalies (Uterine wierdness) are heavily associated with things like extra kidneys, but have no cardiac link as far as I know. Will ask the M Anomalies support group.

  12. I’m also still giggling at the centifruge and carnivals comment. Because, really, what else could possibly explain it? Three major anomolies…are you wondering what else is back to front? Or duplicated? Or upside down and inside out? That they haven’t found yet?

    The miracle, especially with the heart, is that hey! it’s working. Working well, it would seem. The double dipped uterus, not so much. Sorry HFF that this keeps happening to you. Did they offer any useful suggestions to the ugly pain problem? Hope you are on the up and up, soonest.


  13. As far as any dedicated anatomist is concerned, you are the gift that keeps on giving, aren’t you?

    It IS excellent that they’ll know that you keep your aorta somewhere unorthodox before they do any excavating in the vicinity (like knowing where the water mains are. Vital. Ask me how I know).

    It’s the whole ‘what ELSE, Universe?’ thing that can get a little tiring. That, and no answer to the ‘being brutally kicked awake at dawn’ thing your upper abdomen insists on doing. The no answer SUUUUCKS.

    Now what?


  14. Holy shit, really?! Wow. Listen, I think you need to investigate the possibility that you may, in fact, just be part of my family. Because after all the medical wierdness and sheer bad luck that’s gone on with us I’m convinced we’re cousins at the very least. Which would be cool but I wish these things would stpo happening to you. :/

    I love you.

  15. Phew indeed!

  16. Bloody hell, what next?

    Your body is good with the gift of surprise.

    (The route you described a trip down memory lane).

  17. You freak of nature! I love it. But what did they say about the paiiiiiin? Hope you are feeling betterish anyway.

  18. On the black humour side – if you had gone for the more expensive scan would they have found more or less things wrong?
    But how is the pain?

  19. Dextrocardia…or transposition of the great arteries?

    Just curious. ANd intrigued, from a professional stanpoint…

    I think the main issue with abdominal surgery is knowing the big pipes are a bit different and trying not to spring a leak in one, not that we do that sort of thing if we can help it, anyway. Bad for the nerves and the anaesthetist’s crossword…


  20. Oh, unless you’ve got situs invertus as well (if it’s dextrocardia). Helps to know which side the appendix is on etc… 🙂

  21. I’m still giggling at the carnival comment too. Good job they discovered it when they did though.

  22. I do enjoy reading about travels and historical tidbits on your blog! Your writing gives a sense of belonging to a place and makes me want to visit the UK coutryside again (I spent a few weeks in Wales long ago and really liked it, even with the rain!)

    You really are a special an interesting woman, inside as well as outside! I’m glad that the inversed heart vessels things was found on time for your surgery, and well since it hasn’t any other implication that’s great. Did they find any reason for your pain problem though?

  23. Bet you are thinking “What the f* is next?”. And how the hell did they find out? I thought you were off to have your lady bits looked at?

  24. Your heart always seems in the right place to me! And are you officially ‘sans gallstones’ because they removed them or because they were never there in the first place? Ouch! Thinking happy belly thoughts for you…

  25. Completely irrelevant alert: New series of Shaun the Sheep starts TOMORROW!

  26. Don’t know whether to offer sympathy or gawk in amazement.

    Did the impressive ability to write show up on the scan? It may be harder to locate than the two uteri and the unusual heart. But I think it stands you in good stead.

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