The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Study Guide

Rebecca Skloot

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks | Part 3, Chapter 37 : "Nothing to Be Scared About" (2001) | Summary



Deborah goes to her doctor and learns her spike in blood sugar and blood pressure put her in danger of a stroke. Her doctor orders Deborah to avoid stress completely, so Skloot must go on research trips alone. Skloot tries to share only positive information with Deborah. But Deborah still has a lot of reasons to be anxious: she is scheduled to give a speech at the conference in Washington, she is entering community college, and the men in her family are either yelling at her to stay away from reporters or running afoul of the law. Then come the events of September 11, 2001: the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks. The Washington conference is cancelled. Deborah has a stroke in church; her grandson Devon keeps her alive by making sure she stays awake on the way to the hospital. Deborah decides to focus on getting the grandchildren an education.

Sonny's granddaughter JaBrea is baptized by Deborah's husband, James Pullum, and Skloot attends the ceremony. Pullum brings Skloot up to the pulpit to talk to the congregation about Henrietta's cells. Pullum tells the congregation that the family was angry when Skloot first started asking them questions, but that even though the family would not see financial gain, the grandchildren will "take hold of" Henrietta Lacks's story and "let it teach them they can change the world, too."


Deborah's research has made her yearn for more education, but she can't afford to go back to school. She tries to make money with inventions, but she doesn't have the capital to create prototypes, so she focuses on making sure her grandchildren get an education. She says, "This story ain't about us anymore. It's about the new Lacks children."

Standing at the pulpit of James Pullum's church terrifies Skloot, an introvert who hates public speaking. But she realizes her role is to point out what Henrietta has done for science, and her children are here to celebrate Henrietta's contribution. When she attends the baptism and tells Henrietta's story in church, Skloot becomes an integral part of the family.

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