Chapters 3 and 4

Chapters 3 and 4  go deeper into Lia and her family and their unique experiences with blending cultures. More specifically, these chapters are focused on experiences with medicine and health. Chapter 3 is titled, “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” which is the translation of a Hmong phrase used to describe Lia’s seizures. In this chapter Lia experiences multiple seizures that need to be medically addressed. Due to the language barrier, and lack of equipped staff (translators) her seizures are misdiagnosed, and her experiences with Western medicine are much more strenuous than one would hope. Both Chapter 3 and 4 emphasize the difference in Western medicine and the Hmong cultural beliefs.

One of the Hmong beliefs that I found very interesting was how the Hmong culture views seizures. On page 21, it says, “Hmong epileptics often become shamans. Their seizures are thought to be evidence that they have the power to perceive things other people cannot see, as well as facilitating their entry into trances, a prerequisite for their journeys into the realm of the unseen.” This quote stuck out to me because I imagine that this belief that seizures are a representation of power would impact how someone who experiences seizures when they are receiving medical care. Lia’s experience with Western medicine is clearly not great and easy to criticize, but I imagine that it is only made worse by the doctors lack of knowledge of what seizures mean in her culture. Had the doctor known this Hmong belief, or practiced Hmong culture, the diagnosis and experience would’ve been different and more positive. Instead of simply recognizing that her medical condition is seizures, they would’ve also been impressed with what her condition implies about her abilities. Understanding culture and where people come from is so important and I believe had the doctors been aware of Lia and her families culture, their overall experience with Western medicine would have been much more positive.

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