Chapters 3 and 4

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!

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3 thoughts on “Chapters 3 and 4

  1. Oh my gosh I cannot believe you mentioned New Amsterdam! When I was reading this chapter that is the first thing that came to my mind. I think that this chapter showed a lot of the negative aspects of western medicine and the ways in which we treat people in hospitals. I have been waiting for this new show to come out because I think it will inspire more people to do what is right for other people and really take their job of saving peoples lives seriously. I am so glad you noticed this connection too…how funny!

  2. I watched the trailer too and was immensely skeptical about New Amsterdam. Sure, it is a TV show and idealism works, but do you think a single person would be able to show up and ask for doctors to treat without the patient’s insurance? Maybe not, maybe he would not fit into the capitalist agenda that the US in general possesses. But also, I did not grow up here. So, what do you think would have to change realistically to make something like New Amsterdam a possibility? Were there attempts to make such efforts?
    (I feel like the free treatment the Hmong got was unheard of, but if that existed, maybe there’s hope!)

    1. I have a lot of the same questions you do – is something like New Amsterdam really a possibility? I think achieving what the medical director does in this show is a far stretch in our American health care system, however, attempts have been made. In fact, this TV show is based on the story of the medical director of Bellevue Hospital, Eric Manheimer. Dr. Manheimer has written a book about his experience as medical director and his attempts to change the way doctors practice medicine. If you get a chance to read “Twelve Patients” I highly recommend it!!

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