The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 30 Summary
by Rebecca Skloot

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Chapter 30 Summary


When Deborah returned to Rebecca's hotel the following day, she did not acknowledge the fact that she had run out in a panic the night before. Instead she suggested a visit to Zakariyya. Rebecca was hesitant; she knew that Zakariyya had violent tendencies, and that he was very angry about HeLa. Deborah said she was “pretty sure” he was ready to talk. She advised Rebecca to be respectful and to pronounce Zakarriya’s name zuh-CAR-ee-uh, as he preferred.

At the assisted-living facility where Zakarriya was allowed to live due to hearing and vision problems, he at first refused to speak. He sat on a bench outside, eating ice cream and reading advertisements, as if Rebecca was not even there. Then he made her sit beside him while he read an article she had written for Johns Hopkins Magazine

When Zakarriya finally began to speak, it soon became clear that he was as full of rage as people had always claimed. Everything he said was angry. He complained about the HeLa researchers and their disrespect on his family:

Those fools come take blood from us sayin they need to run tests and not tell us that all these years they done profitized off of [Henrietta]? That’s like hanging a sign on our backs saying, "I’m a sucker, kick me in the butt."

He went on to complain that the family lacked medical insurance in spite of everything:

Them doctors say her cells is so important and did all this and that to help people. But it didn’t do no good for her, and it don’t do no good for us. If me and my sister need something, we can’t even go see a doctor cause we can’t afford it.

Above all, it bothered him that many writers said Henrietta "donated" her cells to science, when in fact her cells were taken without her knowledge or permission. 

In spite of his angry demeanor, it was clear that Zakarriya had tender feelings for his family. He displayed pictures of his mother and sister in his apartment, and he and Deborah seemed to care deeply for one another. Deborah gave him the framed photograph of Henrietta’s cells. She explained that it was a gift that she wanted to pass on to him, and his eyes welled up with tears. Rebecca added that she was going to see the cells in Christoph Lengauer’s lab, and that Zakarriya could come along if he wanted. He agreed, then went inside, staring at the picture on the way.