Scroll Down: The skeleton in the museum

Tom Rickert
August 20, 2019 - 4:24 pm
Mütter Museum

Mark Abrams/KYW Newsradio

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — How do you turn a human body into a museum exhibit?

That’s what the Mütter Museum had to figure out, and quickly, after Carol Orzel left her body in the care of the collection of medical oddities. 

Carol Orzel was 59 years old when she died of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva, or FOP. 

Related: Remains of woman with rare genetic condition donated to Mütter Museum

It’s an incredibly rare and disabling bone disease that causes the body to grow a second skeleton. 

“Carol said to me, that when her time comes — that’s the way she put it, ‘when my time comes,’ ” said Dr. Frederick Kaplan, her FOP doctor for more than 30 years. “She said, ‘I would like to be at the Mütter Museum with Harry.’ And her wish is fulfilled.”

After a delicate seven-month process, Orzel’s skeleton is now in the Mütter Museum, right next to the skeleton of Harry Eastlack, a man who died of FOP in 1973. One of the reasons Carol wanted to donate her skeleton was because she had visited the museum and seen Eastlack’s skeleton. 

“Carol and Harry have the same disease, and they have the same exact genetic mutation, but their other genes are different. And their life stories are different,” said Kaplan. “We can see by comparing the two skeletons how the bone forms and where it has formed.”

Listen to the story of how the Mütter Museum transformed Orzel’s body into a skeletal exhibit in KYW Newsradio’s original podcast Scroll Down.

Scroll Down told the first half of the story of Orzel’s life and legacy last year, after her memorial service. Listen to The Skeleton in the Museum, Part 1 below: