Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5 focuses mainly on the language/culture barrier and how it affects Lia’s hospital stays and treatment. It goes into great detail about her two doctors Neil Ernst and Peggy Philp who both know her very well and have worked with her over the years. It briefly mentions how hard it is for parents to have their children in the hospital and not have control over them. In Lia’s case, her parents have a very hard time keeping track of her medication over the years. She has so many medications, they are always changing, and her parents are illiterate so have a very hard time knowing how to give her the proper dosage. It finally got to a point in which Neil had to stay something and Lia’s custody was removed from her parents.

Chapter 6 points out through various accounts that the Hmong do not respect or believe in the doctors in western medicine. The doctors failed to recognize and understand the Hmong culture and this put up a huge barrier between them and their Hmong patients. Not only did this bring distress to the Hmong, but it also caused stress for the healthcare providers taking care of them.

I found the whole section on remembering and taking Lia’s medication properly was very interesting. Like I have talked about in my previous posts, I had the opportunity to work in a pediatric floor of a hospital this summer. I saw various families from various cultural and economical backgrounds. It is very frequent to have seen families that did not have the abilities to properly give medications to their children. It was also frequent to see this language barrier and how it affected the treatment of their child. Furthermore, I saw firsthand what the author meant when talking about how hard it is to have your child be in the hospital. Parents have to watch their child suffering, have to watch someone else care for their child, and have to basically sit there helpless. It was very sad to watch and I do not wish it upon anyone.

When discussing the doctor’s inability to respect and satisfy the Hmong patients, I think it is important to note that the doctors never gave up. While Lia’s parents did not agree with lifelong medication and so much medication to treat her epilepsy, the doctors kept fighting. I think this is one positive aspect among the health disparities. Even if the doctors cannot communicate with them or regulate her medication, they still continued to fight. In the midst of conversation about such bad healthcare treatment and such large disparities, I think it is promising to remember that they did not give up.

The last point I wanted to bring up was surrounding the quote “the language barrier was the most obvious problem, but not the most important. The biggest problem was the cultural barrier.” (p.69) Earlier in the chapter we see that even english speaking Hmong families did not support the care that western medicine was giving them. I think this begs the question of: Rather than language, does the color of the skin or your cultural background determine your level of care? Even if you speak perfect english but are from a different cultural will doctors automatically treat your differently? How can we stop these health disparities from happening?

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