Chapters 17 & 18

In Chapter 17, we learn about Lia’s life as she continues to live. While the rest of the Lee children go to college and start to work, Nao Kao and Foua start to send Lia to a Special Education program during the day both for her benefit as well as their own. We also learn that Neil and Peggy’s son is diagnosed with leukemia, causing them great fear and worry along with Foua. Their son does end up in recovery, however despite this win Lia’s circumstance has caused the Lee’s to lose all faith in American medicine. Meanwhile Anne sets out to find out what really happened to Lia, where she learns from a Valley Children’s Hospital doctor Dr. Terry Hutchinson that Lia may have caught septic shock at her stay in hospital. To attempt to convey the Lee’s perspective of Lia’s illness to the doctors, Anne asks them a series of eight questions designed by Harvard psychiatrist Arthur Kleinman. Kleinman’s analysis of Nao Kao and Foua’s responses suggest the doctor’s failure to overlook their own biases may have been the key that lead to the breakdown of communication between the Lee’s and her series of doctors.

In Chapter 18, we are given more broad information about the state of the hospital and its doctors in regard to the Hmong people. Conflict between the Hmong and American doctors as well as other minority and refugee groups was not uncommon. Some improvement has been made, however, with institutions like conjoint treatment of Western and Hmong healing techniques. One notable movement was made in 1996 called Bridging the Gap where MCMC staff began to be educated on Hmong culture and more conscious and courteous ways to work with Hmong patients. Although it is easy to side with the Hmong peoples in cases like the Lee’s because they are the underdog already given fewer opportunities coming into the United States, it is impossible to overlook the extend Western medicine contributes to saving lives. The overall concept of the chapter is simplified in the end, stating the Hmong treat the soul while the Americans treat the body. I find these two chapters to be some of the more important chapters of the book, as it acknowledges that both the Hmong people and the Western doctors hold “blame” when it comes to the lack of communication that can become fatal when it comes to illness. There is responsibility for both sides to acknowledge the differences in beliefs and to be open and willing to work with each other rather than alongside each other. I am, however, curious to see if the diagnosis of septic shock is true and how much of this diagnosis is blamed on communication.

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2 thoughts on “Chapters 17 & 18

  1. Avery, I could agree with you more that they hit on the most important part of the chapter in the end when saying that the Hmong treat the soul while Americans treat the body. I think this is the reason for a lot of disconnect regarding medical decisions between the two cultures. I am glad you noticed this point as well!

  2. I liked your point about not overlooking the importance of Western medicine. I think I have done that in some of my previous posts, but this was a good reminder in the book that Western medication is incredibly important. If anything, my problems lay with the culture and practices surrounding Western medicine and in order to create change, both patient and provider need to hold responsibility.

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