Found Poem by Summer Sipprell

Introduction

Ethicality is by far the most relevant and impactful areas of narrative medicine in Rebecca Skloot’s novel about the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks. Chapter 12 was the first section of the book that I was really able to relate to and analyze the repercussions of the dehumanization of Henrietta Lacks by medical professionals. Skloot paints 2 separate pictures in this chapter. One of these is the autopsy of Henrietta Lacks in which she is cut open and specimen are removed from each organ in her body by a medical pathologist. This scenario is immediately followed by the preparation and execution of Henrietta’s funeral by her family and friends. Besides the obvious chronology of events leading to Skloot’s decision to include the funeral after the autopsy I found that the most telling link between the two scenes was the realization of the human being behind the medical phenomenon by one of the medical professionals and the realization that there was something that the doctors weren’t telling her family by one of her family members in regards to the massive storm that took place during her funeral.  This chapter provided a unique bridge between 2 seemingly opposite lifestyles. This gives us insight into the turning point of both sides. The family can reflect on this time as the point where Henrietta was trying to tell them there was more to the story of her death than what they realized. The medical professionals can reflect on this time as the point where Henrietta was finally looked at as a person instead of the source of a medical phenomenon. While writing this poem I attempted to bridge the gap between the medical jargon and the lingo of Henrietta’s loved ones while also conveying the severity and complexity of Henrietta’s condition.

 

Let Her Rest

 

–Found poem by Summer Sipprell, excerpted from The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot, pp.  90, 91 &92.

 

Terminal uremia

Blood poisoning

From the buildup of toxins

Organs so covered

In small, white tumors

Sweet Jesus let that poor woman rest

 

Body lay on a stainless steel table

Arms were extended

No incision into her chest

No removal of her limbs or head

Opened the dishes one by one

Collect samples

As cut from body

Sweet Jesus let that poor woman rest

 

Size of baseballs

Tumors replaced her kidneys

Replaced her bladder

Replaced her ovaries

Replaced her uterus

Sweet Jesus let that poor woman rest

 

Lifeless body

Lifeless eyes

Wasn’t what got her the most

Hennie must a hurt something worse than death

Chipped bright red polish

Henrietta would rather have died

Sweet Jesus let that poor woman rest

 

I started imagining

Those cells we’d been working with

They came from a live woman

Sweet Jesus let that poor woman rest

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