Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Justice for Henrietta

You have those stories that hit you and stay with you for years giving you pause more than once and making you think, cringingly again and again?  One to me was the story of Henrietta Lacks.  It came up again the other day with some consolation.  Here's the link:

It's been years and years ago that I first heard of this woman and her ubiquitous cancer cells and she creeped me out then and gave me periodic willies ever since.  I thought how cruel of history to remember her so horribly -- to have her cells torment labs throughout the world like they have.

The story then was that when labs thought that they were culturing one thing, HeLa, was actually on the job.  it was horrifying.  Henrietta Lacks' cells somehow migrated from lab to lab throughout the world, appearing in cultures everywhere: HeLa cells.  The poor woman had become something worse than Frankenstein's monster having done nothing more than dying tragically and much too young.

I'm grateful to have learned that her life meant more than that.  Her cells actually helped as the Smithsonian Magazine reports.  That she's not bedeviling science but helping post-mortem.  I'm also glad that Henrietta Lacks, whose pretty face I finally see, can rest in peace in my heart.

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