Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with terminal cervix cancer on January 29, 1951 at the age of 31. She received many treatments at John Hopkins but sadly she died that same year on October 4. She suffered greatly and the radiation she received wasn't much help.
Before Henrietta died doctors took two samples of her cervix without her knowledge. The samples were given to George Gey, a doctor at John Hopkins. George had many samples of many patients in his laboratory where his assistant, Mary, treated them. But Henrietta's were unlike any other. Every time Mary split them, the cells would grow again.
HeLa cells are an immortal line of cells used to find cures and treatments for many things. They also allow scientists to be able to test different substances and viruses. They helped develop the polio vaccine and have developed further information of cancer and many types of STDs. HeLa cells were sent to space and have also been sent all around the world to different labs and scientists.
In 1951, George Gey took a sample from Henreitta Lacks. As custom his assistant named the vile of cells after the first two initials of the first and last name of the patient. In this case it was called HeLa. An astounding discovery is made, the first immortal cells are grown.
In 1954, the media is still buzzing about the immortal cells HeLa. But one question has not been answered. Who is the person that donated these cells? The name Helen Lane shows up. Helen Lane is the presumed name of the HeLa donator.
That same year, a doctor, Chester Southam begins conducting unauthorized experiments using HeLa cells. Using his patients as guinea pigs, he puts HeLa cells into their system, trying to find out if HeLa cells cause cancer.
In 1970, George Gey, the doctor who took Henrietta's sample dies of pancreatic cancer. Before his death, doctors had tried to remove the cancer but failed. George's last wish before he went into surgery was for them to take a sample of his cancer so maybe he could also create a line of immortal cells using his own sample. But during the surgery doctors realized if they took a sample, Gey might die.
Lacks Family and Rebecca Skloot
In 1973, researchers from John Hopkins found Henrietta's children. They wanted to take samples from them too. Henrietta's family was not a family who finished school. When the doctors called, they didn't even know what was going on. They thought they were being tested for cancer.
For me the most significant passage happens in the end of chapter eight. It says that Gey talked to Henrietta before she died. He told her her cells would make her immortal and she smiled, happy that her pain would make some good. There is no proof of this conversation actually happening, and honestly I don't think Henrietta really knew what he was talking about. I picked this passage because all through the book the main problem is consent. Henrietta's family is mad because Henrietta never gave the doctors consent for them to take out a sample of her tumor. There's even a part where a white man sues his doctor for the exact same thing. If this conversation between Gey and Henrietta actually happened, I feel like the family shouldn't have to worry as much because maybe Henrietta died knowing what was going on. It was also kind of Gey's responsibility to make sure Henrietta knew about what her cells had done. This passage is very important for the over all moral of the story.
Picture of Henrietta and George Gey
Henrietta was a great and loving sister, mother, and wife. She was really young when she died and she left many heartbroken. She did so much good in the world when she was alive and even after she died, she continues to help a lot of people. Her immortal cells have helped many people from dying. If she knew all the good that her cells have done she would be really proud.