Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Man Still Alive at 34 Despite Heart Outside His Chest

DiscoblogBy Boonsri DickinsonAugust 5, 2009 11:47 PM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Christopher Wall spent the first three years of his life in a hospital because he was born with ectopia cordis (pictured at left), a rare birth defect that made his heart form outside his chest. Considering most babies born with the condition only live for about two weeks, it’s a testament to modern medicine that Wall is alive. The condition is incredibly rare—it only happens around eight times out of every million births. As a consequence, there is not much known about the cause of the disease except that it may be associated with Turner Syndrome [ed. note: Which, as one commenter pointed out, occurs only in females]. In some cases, the heart can end up by the neck, or on top of the chest area, or in the abdominal cavity. These days, ultrasounds and sonograms would detect the defect, and it would not be an total surprise for the expecting mother. Life hasn’t been easy for Wall: By the time he was one and a half, he had undergone 15 surgeries. ABC reports:

"[W]e don't know exactly why some children may carry a particular gene [for the condition] and others don't," said Dr. Victoria Vetter, a pediatric cardiologist at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, who was on staff at the time of Christopher's birth. [Wall’s mother] was immediately warned that Christopher was born with a severe case of the condition and he may never survive. Her newborn son was rushed to the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit. Without the enhanced medical procedures used today, Christopher's condition came as a "complete surprise."

Despite his incredible adversity, Wall’s outlook appears to remain positive—when asked about his life goals, he told ABC, "I just wanna be a good person." Related Content: Discoblog: Child With Rare Disorder Has Backward Organs, Heart In Her Back

Image: Courtesy of Annals of Thoracic Medicine

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In