Topic: "Unmarked Grave" (6)
Henrietta Lacks died at age 31. Cervical Cancer took the life of a young mother. Her final days on our small blue planet were spent under the watchful eyes and treatment of those at Johns Hopkins. The finest treatment in the world was made available to a black woman, with five children, whose grave is unmarked today.
Without her knowledge, and during her treatment, cells were removed and used to create new cells, outside her body. This was the first instance in all of human history that cells were duplicated outside the human body. Years of research had gone into the effort to duplicate human cells, but not until this moment had any results been forthcoming. In her honor, these cells were dubbed "HELA" cells, and are today the cornerstone of many medical research products, including the vaccine subsequently developed by Dr. Jonas Salk. The utilization of these cells has not only advanced human life, but it has produced a great deal of income for an awful lot of people.
The five children of Henrietta Lacks, and their off-spring, were totally unaware of any of this until a medical researcher recently contacted the family in order to document additional genetic studies. It should go without saying that a sense of pride exists in that family. It should also be noted that one of those children owes more than $100,000 in unpaid medical bills because he does not have the financial resources to afford healthcare insurance coverage.
An anonymous source has donated sufficient funds for a marker to be placed on the Roanoke, Virginia, gravesite of Henrietta Lacks.
If we are fortunate enough to finally enact a measure of healthcare insurance reform in our great land, it will be as if another Mother's gift is made available to at least one of more than 30 million now uninsured. Marking her grave is the least we can do.