Case of the upside-down woman in the emergency room

A 7-foot-man walked into an emergency room dangling a 5-foot-woman by her feet. She told the staff that if she was upright, she'd pass out. She was only able to maintain consciousness while upside down. No, this isn't a joke. This is a true story that her attending physician, cardiac electrophysiologist Louis F. Janeira, recounts in Discover Magazine. Spoiler: The tip of her newly-installed pacemaker had become disconnected from her heart muscle. When she was upside down, the lead reconnected and stimulated her heart. From Discover:

“You’ll need to go back to surgery to reattach the lead,” I said to Mary. “Let’s page your electrophysiologist stat.” I looked at Jason and sighed. “Meanwhile, keep her upside down.”

We inserted an iv in Mary’s arm and hooked her up to an external pacing device. But pacing her heart through her chest wall gave her severe discomfort and was not a good option, even in the short term. Moreover, it turned out that Mary’s slow beat did not respond at all to medications, including intravenous epinephrine. So she was quickly transported to the electrophysiology laboratory, dangling by her ankles, carried by the only man around with enough strength to do it. And my ER shift continued.

The next day I was back on duty. As I came out of a room after examining a small child with a fever, I heard a familiar voice behind me.

“Dr. Janeira, it’s me, Mary. I’m all fixed up.”

"Vital Signs: The Woman Who Needed to Be Upside-Down"


  1. “A 7-foot-man walked into an emergency room dangling a 5-foot-woman by her feet.”  you see the two foot difference was necessary so that he he’d have them to walk in on.  bwahaha-snort… snort.

  2. Good thing she had him as a husband.  My wife is only an inch shorter than I am, I’d be in a world of trouble if this happened.

    1. Get her knees hooked around your shoulder.  We can’t all be 7 feet, but we can still approach the problem creatively.  Heck, I wonder if a fireman’s carry would have worked.

  3. —  “Out of my way,” said Jason, pushing us aside to get to Mary’s feet.
    “I told you this would happen.” The big man grabbed Mary’s ankles and pulled them up in the air. Moments after Mary was upside down again, the heart monitor resumed steadily beeping. —

    I love stories where doctors and scientists have to turn everything they know on its head to find the answer.  :D

      1. Thanks. Let me rephrase then: how come that he picked her up, in a manner of speaking, by her ankles after she felt from bed ? Is that the natural thing to do, something that had become customary for them whenever no term of endearment will suffice ? I mean, there could be an even better story here, one of love, of fierce passion, of living one’s coupled difference to the fullest even ! Who can tell ?

        1. When somebody faints it’s common procedure to prop up the legs on something. Perhaps that’s what he set out to, except he lifted them up instead and she temporarily revived.

    1.  We three kings of Orient are 
      Bearing gifts we traverse afar. 
      Field and fountain, moor and mountain, 
      Following yonder star. 

      O star of wonder, star of night, 
      Star with royal beauty bright, 
      Westward leading, still proceeding, 
      Guide us to thy perfect Light. 

      1. Myrrh is mine.
        Its bitter perfume
        Breathes a life of gathering gloom.
        Sealed in the stone cold tomb.

        1. OK, now you have to tell me if you knew that verse by heart (no pun intended here) or you googled it.  If the former, were you forced to be in the church choir too?  One of my fave songs though, hymnal wise.

          1. I knew it by heart. Despite being raised without religion, I was in the Christmas pageant when I was in grammar school and know all the verses to several dozen Christmas hymns.

            I always volunteer to sing the myrrh verse after I’ve had a martini. After three or four martinis, it’s Rudolph the Big-Dicked Reindeer, Crusty the Cum Rag and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa’s Balls.

  4. Read this in  my magazine. It seems unbelievable something like that could happen. I am glad her husband was who he was or she might have been a gonner.

    1.  Thing is, as long as a person was strong enough, they could have used a modified fireman’s carry, that would kept her torso upside down enough, perhaps

      1. Why not strap the women to a ladder that is fixed to a trolley?
        Crude demonstration like so:

        |- –
        |       _
        |     | |
        |      |  
        |  –|__  
        |     |        
        |     +        
        |                – —-| 
        |                        |

    1. When you’re having rhythm issues, radical changes of posture sometimes kick you back into normal.

  5. If she’s in her mid-sixties and she’s with a seven-foot man that’s strong enough to pick her up by her ankles… no wonder she’s got heart palpitations. Hey-yo!

  6. Here in the Treasure Valley of Idaho (Boise, Nampa, etc), the population center of the entire state, she would be told that they would be able to get her in to see a specialist in two months.  Meanwhile, remain upside down.

  7. If your lungs are filled halfway up with blood, and you lay down, the blood rolls up and blocks your breathing, and it feels just like drowning.  So you have to sleep propped up so you can’t fall over, or you wake up in a panic, dreaming of ox-eyed Halie and coughing blood.

    If you have a hole in your lung and air’s entering the chest cavity and your lung’s collapsing, you can roll around on the ground until gravity presses the hole up against the chest wall, so that it’s kind of sealed.  If you haven’t any burly friends handy, you can then roll back and forth in time with your breathing and reinflate the lung – unless it’s a tension pneumothorax (where a flap of tissue is acting like a one-way valve) in which case doing this will most likely kill you.  If you do have burly friends handy, once you get the hole sealed you can have them carry you to the hospital for a chest tube.

    In my case, the hole was near the top of the lung and I was alone, so I used a child’s see-saw to reinflate it, which enraged my physician.  He would have preferred I had someone carry me upside down to the hospital, and lectured me extensively on the subjects of tension pneumothorax and refusing to carry a cell phone.

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