This compelling book by Rebecca Skloot tells a multi-sided story of a woman whose cells caused a revolution in the worlds of science, history, and research. Henrietta Lacks was a black woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951. Henrietta was killed by the cancer that took over her body quickly. Little did Henrietta or her family know that a part of her continued to live on. Dr. George Gey had been given a sample of her cervical tumor and had begun to grow her cells successfully. They were called HeLa--short for Henrietta Lacks. Her cells became the first immortal cells to ever sustain. Previous times cells had not been able to sustain and keep reproducing like HeLa could. As time progressed so did science; the cells were mass-produced, cures were discovered, and science had made huge advances. The time period was forever changed because of HeLa. HeLa was slightly controversial considering the cells came from a colored woman, in a time which colored people were heavily discriminated against. With all of the new possibilities the HeLa cells offered, research methods often became unethical and raised concern in the public. As her cells were constantly changing the world, her family lived on completely unaware of the great gift Henrietta's cells were to the world. This story was largely put together with information and history of the cells, but it also follows the journey of Deborah and Rebecca to discover who Henrietta was. Together they work to uncover Henrietta's identity and to and gain respect to Henrietta's name. This book combines many stories interwoven to tell the larger story of how HeLa became existent.
In today's society everything is connected and the world is a much smaller and less private place than it used to be. As connected as the world is because of technology, there are still people who remain in poverty and suffer because of a disconnect from the rest of the world. The Lacks family had no idea that HeLa existed for 20 years. Their lack of money and education kept them from hearing or even understanding the true meaning and impact of Henrietta's cells. When they were finally able to find out about HeLa cells they struggled to comprehend the full meaning of immortal cells. The Lacks family doesn't have a strong background in education, but they have strong roots in their faith. They believed that Henrietta's cells were her spirit still living on. Whenever they heard of something bad happening to someone working with the cells or trying to get information from the family they believed that it was Henrietta's spirit warning them to keep out. Having a Christian perspective in the interconnected world often means that one's morals and core beliefs are challenged. When the Lacks family dealt with reporters and doctors they often couldn't explain to them that it was just Henrietta's cancer cells living--not Henrietta. This course is meant to integrate faith into learning. It can be difficult to integrate faith into one's academics when supposed facts in the world morally challenge the Christian perspective. The book describes tissue ownership and how some people believe that they should have complete ownership of their body samples no matter if it is a part of them. One person may have morals that suggest that the body needs to remain whole for afterlife purposes, while another person may believe that what happens to a body is not relevant to what happens to the spirit afterlife. Although the world is very interconnected and seemingly small it is religious traditions that keep the world from becoming too homogenous. If the world becomes one similar place, tradition and sense of culture would be completely gone.
The combination of stories told in this book prompted me to think about how I would feel to be in certain told situations, and how I feel to learn about how HeLa has affected my life without even knowing it. I found it very interesting to see how Henrietta hugely affected the scientific world, and at the same time the lack of Henrietta had a major impact on the dynamics of her family. It made me think about my own family and how I would feel if my mother was to die from cancer and then later find out she impacted the world. I think that I would feel upset and shocked as Deborah had, but I would not mind that people were able to make profit off of my mother's tissues. I would be happy enough to know that she made a great impact. Before reading this book I had considered a career in nursing but decided it wasn't for me. This book compelled me to look into a career in the medical field once again. It compelled me to a social justice approach to the medical field. It was disheartening to hear that the Lacks family had made a huge contribution to the advancement of science and the medical field and still couldn't afford to pay for any sort of healthcare. I would love to help impoverished families receive needed healthcare. I think that it is something that should be provided for all, no matter what their economic standing is. This book has enlightened me to look at many sides of the stories I hear or see in the news. There are always multiple perspectives to a story.