May 31, 2010

Henrietta Lacks: A Legacy of Love

This is Mrs. Henrietta Lacks. To some, this name means nothing; to millions around the world, this woman's is the reason they're alive today.
Loretta Pleasant was born and raised in Southside Virginia in 1920.
Ms. Pleasant married and moved to Baltimore and became Mrs. Henrietta Lacks (no one knows why her name was changed from Loretta.)
Early in 1951, Mrs. Lacks discovered she had an aggressive form of cervical cancer; as she
was being treated, her cells were removed without her consent for research. Her cells were referred to as HeLa (hee-lua) cells so doctors wouldn't have to disclose the name of the donor.
Mrs. Lacks passed in October of 1951;buried in an unmarked grave, she passed unaware of the extraction of her cells and the impact she would have in the world of medical science.
I strongly encourage each of you to research the history of Mrs. Lacks life and the "HeLa cells", there are many articles relating to her life as well as a book entitled "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" (Skloot.)
Over the past thirty years, the Lacks family has been making strides to have their beloved mother, sister, grandmother's name honored, on Saturday, May 29, 2010 the healing began.
A doctor with Morehouse College in Georgia provided funds to give Mrs. Lacks a proper headstone so people from all walks of life can identify the final resting place of this phenomenal woman.
I had the pleasure to attend the memorial service for Mrs. Lacks in my hometown. I was glad to see so many people in attendance on a Memorial Day weekend. I later began to see that the base if attendees were the extend family of Mrs. Lacks. This was the first encounter for many of the family members, and you could feel the love for one another.
Doctors, family members, public officials gave remarks on the life and legacy of Mrs. Lacks and the way the HeLa cells are still saving lives to this very day.
The highlight of the ceremony for me was the remarks of a pastor in our area. To paraphrase his remarks, he gave what some would call a prophetic vision of the day doctors/scientist discover the cure for cancer thanks impart to the HeLa cells.
I found myself very moved, to the point of tears about this woman and her story. She was my age when she passed away and almost sixty years later, I had the opportunity to be in the midst of her family and friends.
As I heard how the HeLa cells are used, I felt a since of gratitude to Mrs. Lacks as she could be the reason my grandfather lived an easier life as he battled cancer. I thought about the couples that now have families of their own, those who don't have to endure endless sickness because of one woman's unique genetic code.
The service ended with a sense of closure with optimism for the future of science and of course, love.
There is more to come from this story, so much more. I hope this has given you as much interest as it has given me. I also hope to follow up on Mrs. Lacks in future entries.
Thank you, Mrs. Lacks.


Anonymous said...

thanks for this--did not know any of it--amazing! God bless Mrs. Lacks. --yogadancer7

mike1909 said...

Amazing story - thank you for sharing.

angelzaroundus said...

Thank you for sharing this! I recently bought a book about Henrietta for a family member, and as I read the jacket, wished I had kept for myself.

Amazing how much we don't know..

doublebeee said...

I didn't know. Thank you so much... Very moving story! May God continue to bless her soul!

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