The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

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by Only1Chandler
Last updated 6 years ago

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The Immortal life of Henrietta Lacks

Every year we pass by holidays, memorials, and very commonly birthdays. August 1st may not seem important, or out of the ordinary, but on this day in 1920 little did the world know that no more than a few decades later, the face of medicine would change altogether. As a small child, Henrietta lived in Roanoke, Virginia with her parents and eight other siblings until 1924 when her mother died giving birth to her tenth child. Her father, Johnny Pleasant, was unable to care for the ever growing children; He ended up taking all of his children to his hometown in Clover, Virginia. Deciding to divide his children up amongst his relatives. Tommy Lacks, her Grandfather, ended up taking in Henrietta to live with him and a few of her cousins.By the age of 14 Henrietta had spent the majority of her life working on her Grandfather's farm and in the tobacco fields. David Lacks, more commonly known as Day, later became Henrietta's husband. Their first child, Lawrence, was born only a few short months after Henrietta's fourteenth birthday. Married by age twenty, Henrietta and Day ran the tobacco fields before moving from Clover, Virginia to Baltimore, Maryland. In the following years Henrietta lived a very fulfilling life as a mother, a wife, and a friend. Whenever she got a chance she would visit the local dance floors with her friends. She lived a very happy life before she started having abdominal pains and was diagnosed with cervical cancer.

1920- Birth1924- Relocated to Clover,VA1934- First Child (Lawrence)1940- Elsie was Born1941- Married to Day 1942- Moved to Baltimore, MD1951- Diagnosed1951- Death Under the MicroScope


In 1951, John Hopkins Hospital was one of the few places that treated African American patients, including Henrietta. Soon after her diagnosis Henrietta had samples taken of her cancerous tumor by Dr. George Gey. For decades doctors and scientists had been attempting to keep human tissue cells alive and thriving outside of the human body, more commonly known in the medical world as in culture, with no avail. But soon after Henrietta's cells where taken from her body it was apparent they still thrived outside of Henrietta's body, reproducing every twenty-four hours.Gey appeared on national television, on the day Henrietta Lacks passed away, holding a vial of what he had named HeLa cells using the first two initials of her first and last names. He stated very clearly that through the studies he was leading with the HeLa cells, that he could accomplish what had been in the works for decades, to cure cancer. His statement proved to be premature, however, the HeLa cell was still used to cure Polio, and Parkinson's disease, used in cloning, cancer research, the discovery of salmonella, and so much more. Zero gravity and nuclear fusion were tested on the cells to gather results on what effects they would have on human tissues. Even though Henrietta didn’t live to see the full effect of her contribution to the world of science and medical research, her descendants now are witnesses to the benefits of Henrietta's immortal cells.

The Life Before HeLa

Henrietta Lacks

The Eternal Life of





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