Loving the Audio Books & Henrietta

I have become a huge fan of audio books.  Since I spend time in my car every day I thought I'd give them a whirl and started getting them from the library.

I started off with Michael Pollan's Second Nature and then The Omnivore's Dilemma. Both are non-fiction. The first is about the history of gardening in America and the second is about American food and where it comes from. Both were fascinating to me as a plant nerd but not sure if my non-nerdy friends would like them. The second one was also somewhat disturbing and talked about processed foods and cattle feed lots and all the terrible stuff you suspect but would rather not know about food production. I can tell you one thing, since I finished the book I ate local grown chicken and it's a million miles different to the bleached, antibiotic-pumped white rubbery crap they sell in supermarkets. It tasted like the chicken I remember from Sunday roasts as a kid! Now Mr. Pollan is a bit of a rogue, a bit of an activist and gets a bit carried away (his science isn't very good sometimes) but they were certainly worth listening to.

My newest one is The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. When it first came out and went to the top of the NYT book charts I avoided it because it sounded a bit "heavy" for me, even though I love non-fiction. That's why I thought an audio book might fit me better.
It's a fantastic book! Can't recommend it highly enough. I'm 2 disks in to an 8-disk audio and I sat outside the house for 10 minutes tonight because I didn't want to leave the car. What a story!

So I have two things to relay from the book so far.

First the intro;  medical scientists had been trying for years to get human cells to live and divide and continue (the immortal cell) outside of the human body, so that they could test those cells with vaccines and other medical breakthroughs. All cells died within a short time, but not Henrietta's. So all HeLa cells (named after the first two letters of each of her names) are derived from her. There are currently trillions of her cells around the world,  used for all kinds of medical research. Her cells helped develop the polio vaccine and find treatments for AIDS and cancer. Her cells are the most important cells in the world. Here's the thing - she never gave permission for her cells to be taken and her family never know that HeLa cells derived from her even existed for many years.

The second story is that Henrietta had cervical cancer and I was horrified by the treatments back in 1951. They put radon rods inside her for two days and then gave her a month of radiation, all the while putting lead strips inside her to stop her colon being injured by the rays. Radon and lead? Blimey. Makes you wonder what they will say in 50 years about our current medical practices.

So there you are. If any of you like a good story but don't like to sit and read, maybe an audio book will work better for you. And I definitely recommend this one.


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