Breathe To Read

Breathe To Read

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

2016 Challenge - Book 55 - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Today's book review is for

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

This was under the category: Biography

This is the story of a woman named Henrietta Lacks.  The world of science knows her only as HeLa.  She was a poor tobacco farmer who died of a cancerous tumor in the 1950s.  Before she died, doctors took a sample of her tumor into the labs at Johns Hopkins and for the first time ever, had cells that multiplied instead of perished.  Her cells are used all over the world still today for vaccines, medicine, cloning, gene mapping, and more.  There are billions of her cells all over the world that were sold for research, yet it was without Henrietta's knowledge or her families knowledge.  This book was written to introduce the world to Henrietta and her family so that we could learn more about the person who changed the face of medicine.

This was a fabulous book.  My husband is a geneticist and went to Johns Hopkins medical school.  There they used and learned about HeLa cells on a regular basis, but were never told of the woman behind the cells.  The woman who wrote this book did years of research to track down the family, and the doctors and the researchers who were involved in the initial removal of Henrietta's tumor.  Henrietta's family was very angry that this all happened and yet they could not even get health insurance.  They never saw any money related to these cells, and felt that Henrietta was violated because they were taken without her knowledge.  The author of the book spent years breaking into the family and getting them to talk to her, and getting them to trust her that she was trying to find out the truth about Henrietta and what happened with her cells.  The author spends most of her time with Henrietta's daughter - taking her a long for many of her investigations so that she can discover things about her mother she never knew.

The story was wonderful, and the author taking the time to find out about the person behind the cells was even more wonderful.  I am so glad I got to read about it.  I hope these days that the scientist are explaining where HeLa came from and the person she was.

Stars: 5

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