Tag Archives: healthcare

The Immortality Of Henrietta Lacks

A Story That Needed To Be Told

Screenshot 2018-06-29 23.10.05First off, let me say this. I need to give credit to Oprah Winfrey. She is a multi millionaire, but she is never afraid to play the role of someone real. She has no problem getting down and dirty and in this movie, where she plays Deborah Lacks, a woman who suffers from extreme anxiety and PTSD from the many ways that life has taken all it could from her. She was trying to find the truth about her mother whose cells were used to create HELA, where they took cells from a black (colored) woman and used them to reproduce and replicate. Her cells were used to cure all types of diseases but these cells were taken illegally.

Yet John Hopkins was able to take them because they removed the identity of the patient. Kind of jacked up, here they were selling the medicine they created from Deborah and her siblings mothers DNA and yet they never saw a dime. The story follows the reporter and her way of trying to get a clear understanding of the woman behind HELA, because in those days they were afraid to let people know that science and medicine was created with the cells of a black woman.

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This story is just as important as every other story so that the ignorance and stigma behind black people will stop. I wonder how many racist people would love to find out the reason that stem cell research was done was due to Henrietta Lacks, how many cells of a black woman was used to cure their diseases. The only reason they removed her identity was because she was black and the fact that they stole her cells with no permission from her family, which was so much easier to do to a black person in those days. Look at Tuskegee, and the numerous trials they did on black women.

This wasn’t the only form of abuse in this story, you hear of Deborah’s older sister Elsie who was put into a mental hospital and died at fifteen. Deborah never knew the story until going to the old hospital. There she was given her records and a picture where the staff was holding up her by her neck. Her sister was given burr holes in her head because they believed it would drain the cerebral fluid and calm her down.

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Henrietta Lacks died of Breast Cancer but her spirit and her body lives on in all medicine and medical discovery even to this day. And unfortunately her daughter died 8 months before the novel came out. She was not able to see the conversation and how important her mothers story became to this one woman, to us all.

Medicine and medical trails wasn’t always humane, and today in some places, it still isn’t. They only removed slaves and black people and traded them for animals, who get more of a movement than we ever did. (But let me sip my tea.) The truth about so many things is out there, with technology, go and learn something new.


Brain On Fire – Netflix Original

How often are people misdiagnosed when a doctor simply doesn’t have the answers?

Screenshot 2018-06-29 22.48.22This movie comes at a very important time in my life, as I struggle with my own health issues. Suzanna was losing herself. She was lost, confused, hearing and seeing things. She was looking up things online and self diagnosing, but the doctors said she was normal. Took one look at her age and said she was partying too much. She was a young pretty blonde college graduate and she was stereotyped as a party girl. This girl through out the movie didn’t have many drinks, even when she did go out. She was a workaholic, as most writers are. We are all searching for that one story that is purpose.

Screenshot 2018-06-29 22.45.07Her blood never showed any alcohol or drugs, but this is what they decided was her diagnosis. Until she had a seizure, followed by outrages of paranoia, and a few more seizures. The doctors ran all the test and everything was normal. They decided that they were going to have her admitted to a mental health facility. Some place that would heavily medicate her until she would die.

I am not saying that all mental health facilities are like this, but once you get in there, the seriousness of your conversation or symptoms are looked on as anxiety and depression or made up things for attention. You lose yourself in places like that because most of the staff unfortunately look at all patients the same, although they are not.

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

The parents and one doctor who didnt agree with their prognosis found a doctor who was no longer practicing to find the correct answers. This doctor thought outside the box and found her brain was literally on fire. She was dying and they had to save her quick, too much time had been wasted.

The other doctors had given up and was going to send her to a mental health hospital with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Her parents, boyfriend and that one doctor wasn’t accepting that and because of them and their constant support she was helped. How often does this happen it makes you wonder?

Sometimes we are so busy living our lives that we forget about the things we tell other people or forget to tell them. For example, my esophagus has been closing, but this has been going on for years. It took one doctor to think outside the box and now I have a whole new set of diagnosis. Lets not forget the nurse who was so ready for 5 pm that she forgot to order medication for me to be able to breathe over the weekend.

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

This movie was not only real to me, but it was a hard slap to the face. I see what happens when there is no support system in the medical field. Not every doctor is an amazing cast of Grey’s Anatomy. You have to remind the doctors that you are a human being, that you are someones kid, someones parent and build a understanding with the doctor. But what if Suzanna didn’t have a great support system? She would’ve died in an institution and no one would have known any different.

There are plenty of people who don’t have a great support systems. I think of the day my mother went to the hospital with a brain bleed and the doctor wasn’t in the mood to be a doctor today. He made an assumption and said he didn’t think a CT Scan would show anything. I knew my mother I knew something was wrong, she had a Masters Degree and was talking like a child. But we were black and we had on night clothes, we were stereotyped. I made him do one anyway, because a few minutes of his valuable time could possibly save my mothers life.

It did. He thanked me for not listening him, meanwhile I had no other words for him. If I didn’t push, my mother wouldn’t have woken up the next morning. Our healthcare system can sometimes suck, but all it takes is one person to think about the person on the table as their own family.

This was an awesome movie, and I am so glad Suzanna shared her story with the world, because hopefully a doctor will see it and save another life another day.