In these two chapters of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, we learn about the Hmong’s cultural perspective on the illness known as epilepsy and their uneasy feelings when it comes to Western medicine. The content from Chapter 3 surrounds Lia Lee’s condition of epilepsy and the family’s reactions to this new information. In Hmong culture, epilepsy or qaug dab peg is seen as an illness of distinction. Symptoms, like seizures are thought to provide evidence that people with this illness are able to perceive things other people cannot see. The fact that they are plagued by these harsh symptoms gives them compassion and intuitive sympathy that in turn provides them with emotional credibility as healers (txiv neeb). The Lees were both concerned, yet proud of their daughter Lia. Her being chosen for this path in life is an honor, however they still blames their other daughter, Yer. They felt that she was responsible for Lia’s condition and as a result treated her differently. It is unlikely that Yer’s actions caused Lia’s condition, but it was hard to convince Foua and her husband. They took Lia took MCMC hospital many times, but the language barrier between doctors and their Hmong patients is difficult to navigate. There is a good number of Hmong in the surrounding area of MCMC, but their is still a lack of translators. I can only imagine how nerve-wrecking it must be to enter a foreign hospital, not knowing any English and as a result not being able to accurately explain your condition or family medical history. This makes me feel great sympathy for immigrants that have to go through these situations time and time again.
In addition, coming from a culture that has distrusting views of Western medicine can make decisions on whether or not to go to a hospital difficult. Most Hmongs, especially those that have never been to America, have a negative view of Western medicine. To them it is unnatural and a little barbaric. Instead of having to go in a hospital for treatment, Hmong people rather have txiv neeb come to their residences to treat the sick. Overall, the Hmong see the way doctors conduct examinations as intrusive. Learning about how the Hmong see Western medicine, I can understand their hesitation of hospitals and our process of treating patients. The Western way of looking at medicine can sometimes feel unfeeling and cold. The doctors get what they want from you, give you medicine and then send you on your way. It is not welcoming or pleasant. Personally, I dislike hospitals but I can see how they can prove necessary when it comes to healing certain illnesses. I think though it would be nice to set up a service that allows doctors to visit patient’s homes, instead of forcing people to make sometimes long journeys to hospitals.