The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

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Chapter 11 Summary

1951

Henrietta’s suffering went on for months. She had tumors in most of her major organs. Her kidneys were failing. Her stomach was swollen. She received so many blood transfusions that a doctor eventually put a stop to them, saying that she had depleted the supplies in the blood bank.

Word of Henrietta’s blood bank problem soon reached the steel mill where her husband and many of her male cousins worked. By now, the whole community knew about Henrietta’s illness, and they all wanted to help her get better. Henrietta’s cousin Emmett Lacks gathered a group of eight men and took them to the hospital to donate blood for her.

Most of the men who went to give blood that day were cousins of Henrietta’s, men who had moved from the country to Baltimore to work in the steel mill, just as Day had done many years before. When they arrived, Henrietta let these men stay in her home, sometimes for months, until they were able to afford housing of their own. Emmett was the most recent of the men she had helped in this way.

Emmett had often stepped up to help Henrietta, too. Recently, he had taken her for her final visit to Elsie, her epileptic and mentally disabled daughter who now lived at Crownsville Hospital. Elsie had seemed miserable when she was first placed in the hospital, but on this visit she looked fairly clean and content. Henrietta—probably in an effort to convince herself—told Emmett repeatedly that Elsie was happy and safe.

On the day of the impromptu blood drive, Emmett led his little group of eight men to Henrietta’s bedside. Her sister Gladys and cousin Sadie were already there, sitting by...

(The entire section is 449 words.)