Study Guide

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Chapter 31

By Rebecca Skloot

Chapter 31

Hela, Goddess of Death (2000-2001)

  • Once again, an outsider steps in to ruin the progress Skloot's made in winning Deborah's trust.
  • This man warns Deborah not to let anyone know where Henrietta's buried, or they'll steal her body. She tells Skloot she won't talk anymore. But then she changes her mind.
  • Deborah waffles for an entire year. Skloot pushes forward and tries to build a relationship with the family. Deborah's still suspicious of who put Skloot up to this project. Is she in cahoots with Hopkins?
  • Skloot promises to set up a scholarship fund for the family if her book sells. Sometimes Deborah's okay with this.
  • Skloot shares all the information that she can with Deborah. She's always careful to explain anything that might frighten or confuse her.
  • They start to take road trips together to do research for the book and Skloot spends time at Deborah's home.
  • Then Deborah gets a computer and an internet connection.
  • She spends her time looking up her mother and the HeLa cells and starts having to take Ambien to sleep.
  • Her searches of "Hela" yield some interesting misses, including the Marvel Comics character of the same name. Deborah's convinced that the character's based on her mother, since they share some traits.
  • She also Googled the London Clone thing, and came up with a whole lot of "information." She calls Skloot in a panic.
  • Skloot has to go back to Bio 101 to explain that they've only cloned her cells, not the whole Henrietta.
  • Deborah's taking a ton of medication. Her grandson Davon feels he has to stay with her to keep her from hurting herself after she takes her pills. When she takes Ambien, she walks around at night doing crazy things (a rare but not unknown side effect of that drug).
  • She explains to Skloot that she has many diagnoses, including a host of psychological problems and high blood pressure.
  • Deborah gets to be aces at using the Internet, and starts really learning some stuff. Some of it's not so great, like the article that said Henrietta got HPV from sleeping around.
  • But good things happen, too. Deborah gets an invitation from the National Foundation for Cancer Research saying that their conference in D.C. will be dedicated to Henrietta.
  • Deborah's excited about attending, though worried about her safety (still concerned about assassination).
  • She tells Skloot that she wants to take Lengauer up on his offer to see HeLa cells. In the meantime, Deborah's son Alfred gets arrested for armed robbery.

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