Chapter 3 examines the events that took place during Lia’s first several seizures. Lia’s seizures began after her sister slammed a door – the loud noise triggering what the Hmong describe as “when the spirit catches you and you fall down”. In English this phrase is translated to “epilepsy”. Due to a lack of translators available, Lia was misdiagnosed during her first two emergency room visits. It was not until the third hospital visit, when she was actively seizing upon her arrival, did doctors correctly diagnose Lia. Chapter 4 then discusses some differences between Western medicine and traditional Hmong beliefs. The Hmong culture does not thing highly of Western medicine, mostly for good reason, yet Westerners continue to believe that they hold all the knowledge.
One thing that really stood out to me in these two chapters is the difference in culturally appropriate medical treatments. Despite Hmongs believing in certain diagnoses and treatment plans much different than Americans, the Lees were receptive and appreciative of Western medicine at certain times. After taking several children to an American hospital, the Lees reported that the experience did not shake their faith in traditional Hmong beliefs, but it did convince them that on some occasions Western doctors could be of additional help. On the other hand, Americans typically are not receptive to any immersing into another culture’s practices.
There are a lot of current issues within the American health care system. We spend more than 18 percent of our GDP, extensively more than any other country, and yet we still don’t achieve the best health outcomes. For the most part, Americans refuse to accept ideas regarding health care from other developed countries. I have little faith that health care officials would be open to embracing any of the Hmong traditional ways. However, I believe we have a lot to learn from other cultures. Our health care system needs change, and that change needs to be refocusing on our patients. For example, in Hmong practices the txiv neeb might spend as much as 8 hours in a sick person’s home and are focused on healing both the mind and the body.
These two chapters reminded me of an upcoming television show that airs in a few weeks called “New Amsterdam”. Inspired by Bellevue Hospital, this show follows the story of a new medical director, who sets out to disrupt the status quo and provide exceptional medicine by refocusing on patients instead profit. This show looks really interesting and I cannot wait to watch it!