Chapter 11 & 12

Lia finally had the “big one” that her doctors were afraid of, the one seizure that she would not be able to come back from. Running the inherent risk of infections, the doctors were forced to intubate through the blood and vomit in order to prevent asphyxiation. While the excessive medication managed to calm down her seizure, it put her in an almost catatonic state, unable to breathe, eat, or regulate her bodily functions on her own. Lia’s parents had to helplessly watch their daughter be a pincushion, as the doctors poked and prodded to keep her alive, only to receive the diagnosis that they had not entirely succeeded.

The next chapter delved more into the adversities that the Hmong had to live through, how much of their culture they had to give up to get to a safe asylum, and how, perhaps, their culture is the closest semblance to home that they can carry with them even when they lose their belongings, children, and land.


I was quite confused about my own feelings in these chapters. I was empathizing with every side in this story. It was hard imagining how the parents felt watching their youngest child wrapped in tubes, unconscious, bruised, and immobile when she was usually lively. To be in that situation and not be able to understand why she was not getting better like every time is impossible to comprehend. However, reading about Dr. Neil and how invested he actually was in Lia and how that never translated to the parents, who continuously thought that he just unloaded Lia onto another doctor, was also difficult. In fact I thought that the author is often unfair in the way the doctors were presented in the story; Lia’s gender was not forgotten, but was least important amidst all the other issues. Lia was a set of symptoms because a medical doctor can only treat symptoms, who she was as a person or what she felt would not make her better. While the counter argument might be that it was the ‘dehumanization’ of the parents that was considered poor handling, I would say that it was not the intention of the doctors as far as I could tell. The doctors may have prefered referring to the Jeanine and the foster parents not because they were “white and smart” but rather that they could actually comprehend the severity of what was necessary for Lia at that point in time. Given that the Lees clearly trusted them, perhaps they could have done a better job at informing the parents of the proceedings than the hospital, whose attempts in the past had failed.  

For the next chapter, I was not sure if the author was trying to show how resilient the Hmong were or how stubborn. It appeared as though they were acutely aware of the sacrifices that need to be made, and when some things are simply out of control no matter the effort. Yet, was the blame on the US healthcare system for the natural failure of their daughter a remnant of the past atrocities done by the US? Of course, I was not expecting rationality at this point, however, they seemed to think that despite all the previous complaints and ‘non-compliance’, their experience was actually better and that the doctors were good at MCMC. I was not expecting rationality from the parents, but the author often paraphrases and chose to follow this path. I wonder what was her exact opinion on the whole situation.

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