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Monthly Archives: October 2012

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

So-called minorities tend to have a tense relationship with the scientific/medical field in any society. And yes, this “tense” relationship almost always includes restricted access to good health care. Take a look at the United States right now. It doesn’t really matter where you stand on the debate on nationalized health care, it doesn’t take a dummy to realize that those well endowed with money are less likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, bad teeth, cancer, and most other common health problems. But that’s not all I mean when I say tense. There is an ever-present lack of trust between minorities and the health care industry. And this book by Rebecca Skloot tells one story that illustrates why through what happened with one African-American family in the 1950s.

When Henriette Lacks went into the gynecologist’s office at Johns Hopkins in 1951, she knew something was wrong. She should have gone earlier, but when you’re part of a group that has been systematically experimented on by the medical community (look into the Tuskegee Experiment, if you don’t know what I’m talking about), had bodies of your deceased relatives dug up and transported to medical facilities in barrels labeled “Turpentine” for scientific research, or heard stories all your life of people disappearing when they got too close to Johns Hopkins, you don’t really rush to get your yearly physical. By the time Henrietta made it there, the cancerous tumor in her cervix was pretty well established. Her doctors did what they could, gave her the best treatment offered to colored patients at that time, but really they knew there were only putting off the inevitable. She wasn’t going to make it. But of course, they didn’t tell her that until she was nearly dead. They also didn’t tell her that they took a sample of her cervical cells – cancerous and not – for further study. This was pretty routine procedure back then, so nobody thought much of it. In fact, everyone assumed that once her cells were taken to the lab, they would survive for a bit and die out, just like all other cells.

But they didn’t.

LONG after Henrietta Lacks died, her cancerous cervical cells, known has HeLa in the scientific community, were still being used to conduct research on the newest cancer medicine, antibiotics, HIV meds, you name it. In fact, HeLa cells are still being used today. Like, right now. Seriously – go into any lab right now and you will almost certainly find Henrietta’s cells being used in some experiment. And serious scientific breakthroughs are being made, people. Her family would be so proud. Except they had no idea what was going on for a very long time. Yup. Yeah. No one told them.

By the time the found out what was really going on with Henrietta’s cells, her children were well into their 50s, some were in and out of prison, and all of them were suffering from common health problems like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. And not a one had health insurance. Their mother’s cells were solving health problems around the world and were making millions for people in the medical field, but they couldn’t afford a visit to their general physician. And the irony is not lost on them. Add to that a lack of any real scientific knowledge and you wouldn’t have a hard time understanding how much emotional turmoil, anger, and fear the Lacks family feels toward Johns Hopkins and the medical community at large.

This book is really hard to read because it serves as proof of how disposable certain people were considered. Are considered. I don’t know. It also brings to light a very important issue in today’s world: once, say, a tumor is removed from your body, do you have rights to it and any money from medicines scientists develop though experiments with it? If so, what’s to stop people from extorting exorbitant amounts of money from research scientists, making research with cells cost prohibitive? I’d hate to be part of the committee in Congress deciding this pickle.

Four out of Five coffees.

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Posted by on October 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Ghost and the Goth by Stacey Kade

I know what you’re thinking: What are you reading ipsedixit? And to that I reply, I know. I KNOW. But I’ve been dealing with some heavy stuff of late and I needed some light reading. And I might have gone a little too light. And by too light I mean just shy of Twilight.

Because, you guys, this book. First, can we talk about the cover? I finished the book over the weekend just to avoid walking around with it at work. And it’s an incredibly quick read, so that wasn’t too bad. What was bad was when I found out that this is part of a trilogy. Like, there is more to this story. But, I am getting ahead of myself. Lemme back track a bit.

So, right before the bookstore I worked for closed, girls were coming in droves looking for this title. The same girls who, a couple of months earlier, spent their allowances on the Twilight series. So, I should have known what I was getting myself into.

Alona Dare is your typical high school Queen Bee: hot, obsessed with her looks and status, cruel to those beneath he, but with a secret home life that she hides from the rest of the world because it’s so shameful. Collective eyeroll on three!

One day, when she’s sneaking out of first period gym class to make an important phone call to someone from her seeecret shameful life, she gets hit by a bus. Just like that. Poetic writing, this.

She’s doomed to being a ghost until she figures out how to transition. And, as luck (or cliche writing, depending on how you look at it) would have it, the only person in school that can see her is the, like, the totally atrocious and super freak Will Killian (Alona’s sentiments, not mine). And what does this Will Killian, this person who can see and talk to dead people, look like? Oh you know, dark clothes, black hair, fair skin and light eyes. The only explanation we get for why Will can see dead people is that it’s genetic. Mmmkay, Stacey Kade.

Henyways, for reasons that I will not get into because I respect your time and intelligence, Killian agrees to help Alona figure out how to transition. And, as we all expected,  he starts to get the feelings for her.

Ugh, I’m not gonna test your patience. It ends pretty much how you’d expect it to end. With me in tears over the choices I’ve made in life that led me to this book. 1 out of 5 coffees, people. RUN AWAY.

 
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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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