Posts Tagged ‘Baltimore Maryland’

In ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ Rebecca Skloot describes how one woman’s cancer yielded a strange and important legacy

September 22, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 22, 2015

Recently, I finished reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot’s 2010 nonfiction account of the personal and scientific journeys experienced by a Maryland women’s family and cells.

Lacks was the great-granddaughter of slave owners who grew up on what had once been a plantation in Southern Virginia. She died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in 1951 due to an unusually aggressive strain of cervical cancer. Lacks was only 31.

Her story, and her family’s story, might have been lost to history but for two reasons. One is that doctors at the hospital took a sample of the cancerous cells in her body, found that they grew prolifically and soon shared them widely with scientists around the nation and the world. The easily cultivated cells, dubbed HeLa, have been called one of the most important developments in medicine in the 20th century.

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Out of order: Despair and the American way

May 1, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
May 1, 2015

There have been a handful of days in my life that have shaken my belief in America, the nation that has sheltered and nurtured me. Two of them have come in the last six months.

The earliest such occasion was March 30, 1981, when I came home from school and learned that someone had attempted to kill President Ronald Reagan. It was the first time since 1963 that an assassin had seriously jeopardized the life of the leader of the free world.

The next world-shattering day was Jan. 28, 1986, when the seven people aboard the space shuttle Challenger were killed by an explosion 73 seconds into their ascent. It was the first time in history that an American space mission which had cleared the gantry had resulted in the loss of lives. I got out of school early because of testing and spent the afternoon in the basement of my friend Eric’s house watching coverage of the catastrophe on CNN and other TV channels. The deaths seemed entirely at odds with my belief in the United States (and in adults) as technologically competent.

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