The Case of the Woman Who Shattered a World Record

Albert B. Lowenfels, MD


March 27, 2014

The Case

The patient was an elderly woman who had been in good mental and physical health for nearly all of her life. Always energetic and cheerful, she possessed an independent, outgoing nature.

Patient History

Medical history. About 12 years before her death, she fractured her leg, which was treated with a plaster cast, and she resumed walking after the fracture healed. Seven years before she died, the patient underwent surgery for a fractured hip and was mainly confined to a wheelchair after this injury. Medical illnesses included only mild congestive heart failure.

Family history. The patient had an elder brother who died at age 5 years and a sister who died as an infant. Her only child died at age 35 years, and her husband, who was a cousin, died at age 73 years. Her only grandchild, a physician, died at age 36 years. The causes of death of the immediate family members are not known.

Social history. The patient smoked a few cigarettes each day, drank moderate amounts of wine, and was reputed to eat above average amounts of chocolate.

End of life. At the time of her death, the patient was small, measuring about 137 cm (4'6") and weighing only about 40 kg (88 lb), with some evidence of recent weight loss. Her hearing and r vision were impaired, but even at the end of her life she could hold intelligent conversations, frequently responding to questions with humorous answers.

The exact cause of her death is unknown because no autopsy was performed. However, when she died, she became and remains famous for an extraordinary achievement.


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