In these next couple of chapters of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, we get a look at Lia Lee’s life while in Child Protective Custody. Due to Lia being a minor, Neil felt that he had the right to place the call to CPS. If Lia was an adult capable of making her own informed decisions about her medication, the situation would be vastly different. Instead, Lia is taken from her parents, who are deemed unfit to provide appropriate care to their daughter. While being away from her parents for 6 months, Lia was placed with Dee Korda who tried her best to cater to the Lia’s medical needs. During her time in foster care, Foua and Nao Kao visited regularly. They missed their daughter immensely. The feelings was mutual for Lia. Many days she would cry out for her mom, before finally getting used to being around Dee and her other kids. Dee and Lia’s parents developed a good relationship. The more Dee interacted with Foua and Nao Kao, the more she disagreed with Lia being placed into foster care. The state thought it was appropriate for Lia to be there since her parents are not capable of sticking to Lia’s strict medication regimen. Dia’s sentiments about the Lee’s situation was eventually shared by Jeanine Hilt, the Lees case worker. While working with the Lee’s, Jeanine tried her best to get custody granted back to Foua and Nao Kao. She continuously educated the Lees about Lia’s medication, which was changed due to the progression of her epilepsy. Lia’s new medication, Depakene, was a liquid that tasted a lot better that bitter pills and could easily be administered to Lia from a syringe into her mouth. Trust was gained between Foua and Jeanine during this phase. It was obvious that Jeanine wanted the Lees to get their daughter back and they did.
The author developed a strong relationship with Foua and Nao Kao, while learning about Hmong culture. Along with her “cultural broker”, Anne was able to learn about life in Laos and how life in America is for Foua and Nao Kao. I think the best way to understand a different peoples’ life & culture is to just spend a lot of time with them. The willingness to just sit and hear their stories can make all the difference. I think the doctors’ tried their best to deal with Lia’s situation, but more could have been done on the cultural understanding front. Doctors’ always think that they know more than the patient and in some way, that is true. However, if you are not willing to listen and learn how will you ever develop a good relationship with your patient? Learning about how people from a different culture live and their history can help provide context in a medical situation. If the Lees see that their daughter is experiencing unnatural hyperactivity because of a medication, they are probably going to stop giving the medicine to her. They don’t like what they are seeing and it is considered unnatural in their culture, so of course they will disagree with giving an unknown drug to their child. In the eyes of the state, the Lees may have been wrong in not giving medicine to Lia, but who is to say if the treatment made for Lia would have prevented her retardation symptoms? It seems to me that multiple doctors should have consulted on Lia’s case and prescribed a steady pattern of medication to Lia. I don’t think taking so many different medicines really helped her in the long run.