Friday Morning Bookclub

July 31, 2013

The Senior Moments Book Club…Meeting 5!

IMG_1054(1)Last week the Senior Moments Book club met to talk about The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Every meeting I find myself wondering if anyone is going to show up! I was particularly anxious this month as my  father turned in his copy of the book early on. He just could not get into this book. Fortunately many did read the book and those who didn’t were interested enough to come for the discussion. Close to thirty, 80 plus year old seniors showed up to join in, as well as Barbara and Dana two of The Friday Morning Bookclub members.

IMG_1058(1)IMG_1059IMG_1060As always, We started the meeting with one of the residents reading a short biography of the author and then I presented a summary of the book. My biggest challenge continues to be how to give enough details so that those who have not read the book can join in the discussion, yet keeping it as short as possible. This usually involves rereading the book while taking notes and then a lot of editing. Cut this out, cut that out…..cut anything out which is not essential to the story.

The residents are always happy to help out by reading out loud one of the discussion questions printed out for them in large print. This gives everyone an opportunity to participate and seems to help get things going! After all the whole goal is to get them talking.

IMG_1057IMG_1056IMG_1053 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is two different stories in one. There is the scientific story, involving the growing of HeLa cell, cells which have been instrumental in many medical achievements such as the development of the polio vaccine, the advancement of cloning and in vitro -fertilization, and then there is the human story. Here we have a poor black women who was treated for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins medical center which is only minutes away from where many of the residents grew up some sixty years ago. I had hoped that this Baltimore connection would enhance our discussion and I was not disappointed.

Many of the residents shared their stories, growing up in Baltimore in a time when there were colored bathrooms as lackswell as water fountains. One woman grew up in the south and had not met a black person until she was in high school. Although they became good friends it was unheard of to invite a person of color to your house. A couple raised in New York were appalled at such a story. Many of the residents talked about how this was” just the way it was in those day” and all were disturbed reading about the treatment of the black community. We talked about consent forms and agreed that few even bother to read them. We talked about the ethics involved in the use of samples taken from a patient with or without consent. We questioned whether Henrietta would have given consent had she been asked. We talked about whether patients should be able to benefit financially from the use of their cells and for that matter whether the doctors or labs should be able to. We discussed how doctor patient relationships have changed over the years and how socioeconomic differences still play a part in how patients are treated.

Once again this group of seniors have shared their stories and thoughts and have taught me more than any book possibly could and once more I am concerned as to whether anyone is going to read our next book…and for good reason. Our next book is When She Woke by Hillary Jordan.  When She Woke takes place in the future. A future where abortion is considered murder and there are no jails. Not only is Hannah Payne found guilty of murder for aborting her unborn baby, but she is also guilty of refusing to turn in the doctor who performed this illegal procedure. Her sentence? She will be Chromed….. her skin will  be genetically altered to bright red. Not your typical senior read, but one that I hope will generate an interesting discussion! Please join The Senior Moments Book Club in reading When She Woke!



May 18, 2011

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks: A Review By Bonnie

Filed under: Book Discussions,The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 4:31 pm

  Last week our book club met to discuss The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. We had a large turnout and a wonderful discussion. Everyone found the book to be a fascinating read with much to talk about! The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is an excellent choice for a Book Club!

Here is a short review by Bonnie:

We had a very diverse and educational discussion about the book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot.
This was the story of a black woman, Henrietta, who suffered from a malignant type of cervical cancer which was further complicated by the disease of Syphilis that she contracted from her husband Day.
 Henrietta and Day were uneducated farmers raising a family when she became ill with a fast growing form of cancer. During her treatments of skin damaging radiation and surgery, some of her cells were harvested and used in testing without her or her families’ knowledge or permission. These cells, which are still widely used today, have helped develop important medical advances including the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, gene mapping and in vitro therapy. Unfortunately her descendants who suffered from diabetes and prostate cancer did not get to receive the benefits of her contributions and had limited access to medical care or health insurance for themselves.
 We were shocked to learn how black patients were treated in the 1950’s and about their fear of hospitals.  We discussed the legal and moral issues of taking tissues from patients and debated whether the patient’s family should be compensated when these samples are taken and then sold to researchers. We did not come up with a conclusion on this so the debate will go on!

May 17, 2011

The Friday Morning Bookclub Gives The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 4 1/2 Omelets

Filed under: Polls,Rate The Book,The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 5:20 pm

Amazon readers gave The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks 4 1/2 stars

Barnes and Noble readers gave The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks  4  stars

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the remarkable story of a poor black woman who was treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital for cervical cancer in the 1951 and who’s cells are not only responsible for numerous major medical breakthroughs, but are still being used today. A fascinating read!

May 12, 2011

Trivia 200

Filed under: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks,Trivia — susanbright @ 9:36 am

Can you identify this picture?

Hint: It has something to do with this month’s book!

Yes! it is a HeLa cell in the process of dividing!

May 10, 2011

Rate The Book: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

Filed under: Polls,Rate The Book,The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 11:42 am

Please help us rate our books. All votes and comments are welcomed!

April 29, 2011

This Month’s Book: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks

Filed under: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 4:11 pm

Be sure to watch this interview with Rebecca Skloot, the author of this month’s book. What an amazing story!

April 18, 2011

This Month’s Book: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

Filed under: The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 2:52 pm

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is a remarkable story and a must read! Henrietta Lacks was a poor African American women who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at the age of 31. While being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, samples of Lack’s cells were taken for medical research without consent, which was not uncommon in the 50’s. These cells, which were given the name HeLa were the first cells researchers found that kept multiplying and would not die.  HeLa cells are being used today in gene mapping, cancer research and AID’s research and and were instrumental in developing the Polio vaccine.  Please join us in reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

January 15, 2011

Our Dilemma!

At Friday’s meeting there was a discussion similar to this short video. Thank you Eddie for turning my script into a video! So we have a decision to make and we need to make it fast so everyone can start reading. The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks is a fascinating story and one I would definitely recommend reading at some point. Heaven’s Keep is a mystery with lots of twists and turns and everyone in the book club received a copy. The big question is… which one do you want to read for February. Please vote today so we can make a decision as soon as possible! Afterall we have a lot of reading to do!

Hard to believe, but it is a tie! Let’s stick with Heaven’s Keep as that was our original choice for February and we will be sure to read The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks later this year. Thanks for voting!

December 29, 2010

The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks By Rebecca Skloot

Filed under: Book Recomendations,The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks — susanbright @ 11:28 pm

I had never even heard of the HPV virus until a few years ago when I saw the “One Less” campaign commercial encouraging young women to get the new vaccine Gardasil for this virus which could lead to cervical cancer. Nor did I ever think about how these vaccines are developed. I now know that a African-American women living in Baltimore was largely responsible for the development of this vaccine as well as the vaccine for polio, however few people have ever heard of her.

Henrietta Lacks, born Loretta Pleasant in 1920 in Virginia, moved to Baltimore in 1943 when her husband took a job at Sparrows Point shipyards.  In 1951, after finding what she described as a “knot” in her cervix, Henrietta went to Johns Hopkins hospital to have it checked out only to discover that she had cervical cancer. ” She happened to walk into Hopkins at a time when scientists were trying to grow human cells in culture and were taking cells from anybody they could,” said Skloot. No one had ever seen cancer cells multiply outside the body the way Lack’s did!  These were the first immoral cells ever! These cells kept growing and did not die after division as past cells had. George Gey the researcher who first discovered these cells took Henrietta’s initials and named the cells HeLa.  Although Lacks died in 1951 her cells are still alive and being used in medical research today.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was an amazing story as well as a controversial story. Because of the HeLa cells, discoveries have been made, lives have been saved and many have even benefitted financially. However, Henrietta’s family had no idea that her cells were being used for medical research and contend that doctors were not given permission to take her cells and that they should be compensated. This brings up so many questions as to what a patients rights are and even what happens to all of our cells taken for cultures and biopsies. I learned more about cells, and DNA than I ever learned in high school biology.  I got to know the Lack’s family,  many of which  were uneducated and lived in poverty and was shocked to read about how African-American patients were treated in the 1950’s.

Rebecca Skloot did a wonderful job of telling Henrietta’s story, and the inclusion of pictures of Henrietta and her family brought her story to life. This was definitely a story worth telling!

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