Man Born With Heart Outside Chest Celebrates 34th Birthday

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How long could you live with your heart outside your chest? For Christopher Wall it’s 34 years and counting. Having just celebrated his birthday on Monday, August 10th, Chris was recently featured on ABC news. Follow the link and check out his amazing story, and see some incredible footage of Chris in action at the end of this post.

At birth and high school graduation, Chris Wall didn't let an external heart keep him down.

As an infant or high school graduate, Chris Wall didn't let an external heart keep him down.

Formally, Chris Wall has Ectopia cordis, a condition where his heart was formed outside the chest cavity before birth. Doctors were unable to reposition the organ back inside the chest cavity, and so skin was stretched over the heart instead. With a breastbone grafted from his leg, Chris is able to breathe without a respirator – a feat he couldn’t accomplish as an infant. Few are born with Ectopia cordis (5 or 6 per million) and as testified to in the Guinness Book of World Records, no one has ever lived as long with the condition.

But what does this mean for the rest of us, besides being a heart-warming story of Mr. Wall’s will to live? His survival points to a trend in medical understanding. Ray Kurweil, Singularity expert, points out that many important growth curves are actually exponential, not linear. During the early slow climb, it may not look like much is happening, but the background is building that will produce an explosion in advancement.

Looking at the medical improvements between 1975 (the year Chris was born) and today, little may have seemed to change. Amazing developments in surgery have occurred, but people with Ectopia cordis are often treated just as Chris was: try to re-insert the heart…fail…cover with skin. Yet, the skill of robotic surgeons, the advancement in artificial organ growth, and the general survivability Chris displays all indicate that we are ending the slow growth phase of the exponential curve. Factors are in place, the explosion may be coming soon.

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Click to view ABC video of Christopher Wall

Discussion — 23 Responses

  • Ruggy August 19, 2009 on 3:24 am

    Love long and prosper, Chris! You are an inspiration.

  • Ruggy August 18, 2009 on 11:24 pm

    Love long and prosper, Chris! You are an inspiration.

  • Gonzobot August 19, 2009 on 3:50 am

    Whatever happened to the idea of NOT spreading defective genes? I mean, this guy was born this way for a specific reason – even if we don’t know why. But the chances that it will happen again is not a necessary risk by any means – why do we use so much resources to save something that is renewed THOUSANDS OF TIMES EVERY HOUR? People are disposable – life is not sacred – EVERY SINGLE THING THAT IS ALIVE IS GOING TO DIE. Stop acting like every life is unique and special – it isn’t. Amazing that the guy could come this far, but it shouldn’t be treated as anything more than a fantastic medical experiment – how long can he go if we just patch it up and be done with it?

  • Gonzobot August 18, 2009 on 11:50 pm

    Whatever happened to the idea of NOT spreading defective genes? I mean, this guy was born this way for a specific reason – even if we don’t know why. But the chances that it will happen again is not a necessary risk by any means – why do we use so much resources to save something that is renewed THOUSANDS OF TIMES EVERY HOUR? People are disposable – life is not sacred – EVERY SINGLE THING THAT IS ALIVE IS GOING TO DIE. Stop acting like every life is unique and special – it isn’t. Amazing that the guy could come this far, but it shouldn’t be treated as anything more than a fantastic medical experiment – how long can he go if we just patch it up and be done with it?

  • normenclature August 19, 2009 on 7:25 am

    Gonzobot, when you are ready to take your place in the dying line, you can say that. Your genetic problems are greater than his. You procreate stupidity.

  • normenclature August 19, 2009 on 3:25 am

    Gonzobot, when you are ready to take your place in the dying line, you can say that. Your genetic problems are greater than his. You procreate stupidity.

  • Mila August 19, 2009 on 8:36 am

    normenclature, he is right. We wouldn’t have such defects if we didn’t save people with them all the time. Take yours emotions out of it and you’ll see that it is illogical to produce more faulty offspring.

    • ShadyAidy Mila August 19, 2009 on 9:41 am

      If Mila and Gonzobot even bothered to do a *little* bit of research (they are connected to the internet, aren’t they? They didn’t use telepathy to write their comments) they would discover that Ectopia cordis is NOT a genetic condition, it will not be passed on to his descendants.

      If you think life is not sacred and special, then dispose of yourself in a neat and tidy manner so as not to inconvenience those of us who cherish life.

    • paur Mila November 9, 2009 on 3:54 pm

      mila and gonzo were right in there respective , but they miss one crucial point : genetic disorder are not created by humans they pass through them and can happen to anybody .Also , if dying/disposing of faulty humans were solutions then each person with even minor defect like COLD/BLOOd PRESSURE would have to be disposed of . you urself would have been ill and if instead of taking to doctor ur r disposed of then huma n population will be negligent . We may move back to Dark ages

  • Mila August 19, 2009 on 4:36 am

    normenclature, he is right. We wouldn’t have such defects if we didn’t save people with them all the time. Take yours emotions out of it and you’ll see that it is illogical to produce more faulty offspring.

    • ShadyAidy Mila August 19, 2009 on 5:41 am

      If Mila and Gonzobot even bothered to do a *little* bit of research (they are connected to the internet, aren’t they? They didn’t use telepathy to write their comments) they would discover that Ectopia cordis is NOT a genetic condition, it will not be passed on to his descendants.

      If you think life is not sacred and special, then dispose of yourself in a neat and tidy manner so as not to inconvenience those of us who cherish life.

    • paur Mila November 9, 2009 on 11:54 am

      mila and gonzo were right in there respective , but they miss one crucial point : genetic disorder are not created by humans they pass through them and can happen to anybody .Also , if dying/disposing of faulty humans were solutions then each person with even minor defect like COLD/BLOOd PRESSURE would have to be disposed of . you urself would have been ill and if instead of taking to doctor ur r disposed of then huma n population will be negligent . We may move back to Dark ages

  • John August 19, 2009 on 9:37 am

    Mila,

    He is wrong, and so are you. Compassion, study, and treatment leads to a better understanding and treatment options. Many genetic conditions that were once fatal can now be treated, and the patients live a normal life. One day cures will be found because patients are alive and available for study. In addition, genetic lines are not broken with the death of a patient. They stretch far and wide within the family. Your logic is not only cruel, but illogical. You couldn’t take your emotions out of the equation if it were your child. So don’t coldly act as if someone else do the same. Who is anyone to decide another’s fate? Everyone deserves the right to live a full life. If they have to fight to do it, so be it. Just because an individual is healthy, doesn’t mean they are more entitled to life.

  • John August 19, 2009 on 5:37 am

    Mila,

    He is wrong, and so are you. Compassion, study, and treatment leads to a better understanding and treatment options. Many genetic conditions that were once fatal can now be treated, and the patients live a normal life. One day cures will be found because patients are alive and available for study. In addition, genetic lines are not broken with the death of a patient. They stretch far and wide within the family. Your logic is not only cruel, but illogical. You couldn’t take your emotions out of the equation if it were your child. So don’t coldly act as if someone else do the same. Who is anyone to decide another’s fate? Everyone deserves the right to live a full life. If they have to fight to do it, so be it. Just because an individual is healthy, doesn’t mean they are more entitled to life.

  • Dr. Schanfions November 8, 2009 on 7:25 am

    Mutations can occur in any generation, genetic defects don’t need to be passed on to exist.

  • Dr. Schanfions November 8, 2009 on 3:25 am

    Mutations can occur in any generation, genetic defects don’t need to be passed on to exist.

  • Dr.Vaibhav December 25, 2009 on 5:49 pm

    First of i think no one even looked up at the comment of Shady. There is no genetic origin proved for ectopia cordis.
    And as for the 2 who think life should be at the best form, i think it is thier own opinion but i would like to say that if we dispose of every defective baby then we r similar to robots not humans. We learn medicine to improve lies of people not destroy them. if u remove emotion from a person then man is a mere puppet. And pre natal diagnosis of all such condition is done n that is the time when genetic councellin is to b given.the 2 who said to dispose look at yourselves first , even ur not perfect in all ways. just imagine if God forbidden u hav children with such genes. r u goin to abandon him/her? Life isnt mechanical ….

  • Dr.Vaibhav December 25, 2009 on 1:49 pm

    First of i think no one even looked up at the comment of Shady. There is no genetic origin proved for ectopia cordis.
    And as for the 2 who think life should be at the best form, i think it is thier own opinion but i would like to say that if we dispose of every defective baby then we r similar to robots not humans. We learn medicine to improve lies of people not destroy them. if u remove emotion from a person then man is a mere puppet. And pre natal diagnosis of all such condition is done n that is the time when genetic councellin is to b given.the 2 who said to dispose look at yourselves first , even ur not perfect in all ways. just imagine if God forbidden u hav children with such genes. r u goin to abandon him/her? Life isnt mechanical ….

  • Bилям January 5, 2010 on 11:52 am

    Текст лично мне ничего не дал. Хотя для многих может оказаться очень полезным… :)

  • Bилям January 5, 2010 on 7:52 am

    Текст лично мне ничего не дал. Хотя для многих может оказаться очень полезным… :)

  • Danielle July 13, 2010 on 6:34 pm

    does anyone know how i can get in touch with Chris? I am interested in featuring him in a TV show.

    thanks
    d

  • Danielle July 13, 2010 on 2:34 pm

    does anyone know how i can get in touch with Chris? I am interested in featuring him in a TV show.

    thanks
    d

  • Rodney Martinez May 5, 2011 on 12:53 pm

    Does anyone know how I could get in touch with Chris? I was born with the same condition a few years after Chris (May 6, 1979) and I had an incredible doctor who saved my life. My doctor was able to eventually force my heart slowly back into it’s chest cavity through a series of operations as a child, unlike Chris case. They also reconstructed a makeshift sternum from removing, slicing and then fusing some ribs to my ribcage. I would love to get in touch with him so that I can share my story with him.