Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

In spite of my abnormally large head, I am far from what I would consider a brainiac. I did not excel in math and science and spent most of my education baffled by that subject matter.
So no one is more surprised than I am that I absolutely loved “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot. I am not even sure why I chose this book. Probably only because the author shares my name. Seriously, I am that simple.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the beautiful story of a young mother who walked into Johns Hopkins Hospital complaining (although not much complaining from Henrietta) of a painful "knot" in her cervix and a bloody vaginal discharge. That day, she was diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the appearance of the tumor was unlike anything that had ever been seen by the examining doctor.
Cells from the carcinoma were removed from Henrietta’s body for research purposes without her knowledge or permission and became the first cells to be grown and kept alive in a laboratory.
This story covers the amazing science and discoveries in medicine following the discovery of Henrietta’s cells (known as HeLa) and the life and struggles of the family who knew nothing about the advances in medicine attributed to their beloved mother.
So while their mother’s cells were busy making medical history significantly contributing to major cancer research,
the polio vaccine, space missions, first cloned and mapped genes, atom bomb research, etc.
Henrietta’s family still cannot obtain medical insurance.
And while Henrietta lies in an unmarked grave in Virginia, there is not so much as a wing in Johns Hopkins Hospital to honor her amazing contribution to medicine and healing.
This book covers science, medicine, law .... and humanity. I smiled, chuckled, gasped and wept openly while reading this amazing story. The author brilliantly put it all into words I could easily comprehend as she did the same for Henrietta’s family. I absolutely recommend reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks”!

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