Traditions determine the way human beings live and interact with each other. This has had an impact on the lives of human beings as a result of following these traditions. Anne Fadiman’s “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” explores the different customs and values that exist in various human traditions. In this book, cultural diversity in the medical field is examined. This is revealed through the life experiences of a Hmong teenager, Lia Lee, who was epileptic.
Lia was born in a modern medical institution. This presented her with the opportunity to have a prosperous future. Unlike Lia’s case, the rest of the children in this community were born in a mucky atmosphere with no medical aid (Fadiman, 1997). Nonetheless, Lia had been subjected to seizures since she was three. The Western physicians handled these seizures with the seriousness it deserves. On the other hand, Lia’s parents had a different perception with regard to her seizures. They perceived it as a weird ailment yet Lia was its host. They associated this ailment with supernatural forces. They alleged that the seizures enabled their daughter to perceive things that other members of the society could not. The Hmong population, residing in California, faced with a challenge that pitied their traditional medicinal practices against the contemporary Western medication. An impasse existed and it required being resolved. This circumstance was among the challenges faced by the health sector.
The Hmong, customarily a closely-joined and aggressive population, were not so much for the idea of adaptation as compared to other settlers. This was owed to their dedicated devotion to beliefs and customs of their forefathers. With regard to this, attaining a mutual relation between their customs and the contemporary medicine called for the integration of ideas from both divides. In this case, some medicinal practices of Western origin were incorporated in the traditional medicinal practices. This was vital in ensuring that the population’s health was taken care of. The encouragement of the sick to embrace the new medication as well as to have faith in it was also part of the integration process. As a consequence, a functioning link and collaboration between these cultures, with regard to health care, had to be established. The Hmong community’s beliefs about spirits made them come up with a different medical explanation about the disease. Lia’s parents, being part of this community, were no exception as they also adhered and believed in their traditional medicines. Therefore, every time Lia became unconsciousness, her parents purported that it was basically due to the loss of “…her soul” (Fadiman, 1997).
During the welcoming rite for Lia, a door was slummed. This incident makes her parents believe that it was the cause of Lia’s epilepsy. They have a strong conviction that the slamming of the door enabled the ‘forces’ to overwhelm her. They believed that this was what resulted in their daughter’s loss of soul. With regard to their belief, the therapeutic services presented by the Western physicians were insignificant. They were convinced that it could not correct anything. In addition, they believed that Phenobarbital and Dilantin medications were utilized unsystematically.
On the other hand, the enlisting of animal sacrifices and customary rituals carried out by Lee Nao in the course of treating Lia’s illness did not impress the Western physicians. This act led to the transfer of Lia from her biological parents as well as home to a foster mother. While in this new home, Lia’s foster mother grows fond of her biological mother. It is perplexing that this woman leaves her own family in the watch of Lia’s biological mother as she takes Lia for treatment. Lia had been suffering from these seizures since childhood. In spite of incorporating the Western medicinal practices, it was not a guarantee that the seizures could be managed. Lia’s parents as well as the hospital employees had a big influence in determining the course of her sickness. Based on this, Lia’s life was at stake as her health deteriorated with time. Therefore, communication as well as cultural differences between the medical practitioners and Lia’s parents had to be integrated for the sake of treating her.
However, this proved challenging as the two pediatricians looking after Lia made a lot of effort to get permission from Lia’s parents in order to curb her seizures. They respected the love shown by Lia’s parents towards her. This love was so intense that they were not willing to let their daughter go. Nonetheless, the pediatricians were obliged to request the court to isolate Lia from them. This came into play following the refusal of her parents to grant the pediatricians permission to treat Lia’s seizures. Her sickness makes them sad yet they are not willing to allow its treatment. After the separation episode, her parents went on taking good care of their peaceful (Fadiman, 1997). It is satirical that Foua consoled the medical practitioners yet her own kid suffered from leukemia. The ability to connect regions, societies and beliefs is brought out through the affection expressed by these families towards their children.
The author establishes the interrelation that subsists in these flourishing cross-cultural relations as sincere openness. As much as she utilizes a neutral tone in the way she outlines her composition, she conspicuously projects liking for Nao Kao and Foua, the parents of Lia. Additionally, Fadiman lays bare her earnest affection for the Hmong population. She is capable of outlining some particular aspects that affect this community. Lia’s household showed adoration for their worker, Jeanine. This is demonstrated by the way they christened her, ‘…the daughter of America’. This friendliness improved communication with her. Dan, the teenager who cared so much about the Hmong society, lived harmoniously with Lee’s family. He further took care of Lia when she was still ill (Fadiman, 1997). In spite of the challenges present at the hospital as well as the tension at the emergency room, Dan still attended to her. The Hmong population was known for its togetherness regardless of the circumstance. This trait is demonstrated by Dan who takes care of Lia without being concerned about the tension in the hospital’s emergency room. On the other hand, medical doctors Peggy and Neil, who gave treatment to Lia, despised the Hmong individuals for their “inconsiderate nature”. They even went to the extent of belittling her family.
Though friendliness determines the affiliation between persons, it is clearly not adequate. The way the expressive nurse, Martin, relates with the Hmong serves as an example. Irrespective of his deep admiration for Hmong customs and their industrious nature as expressed by Lia’s family, he still views them in bad taste. Fadiman further illustrates liking for the cross-cultural connotations by enlisting the services of a translator. The translator also participated in discussions that touched on cultural varieties and was competent in sharing his perspectives (Fadiman, 1997). The inclusion of Jeanine simplified work as well as improved cooperation between the hospital and Lia’s family. This played out well during the process of taking Lee back home from the hospital. Consequently, Jeanine sought the support of Lee’s sister in improving her communication. The Hmong population was very accommodating and that is why the author lived harmoniously with them.
The tale suggests that the realization of positive cross-cultural links took place long time ago due to the zeal and determination of individuals. The author’s undertakings were not yielding results until she enlisted the help of May Ying. Nonetheless, this turned out to be challenging and time consuming as she spent a lot of time listening to her. Jeanine was not integrated into Lia’s family immediately. This was because they doubted her at the beginning. This suspicion was related to Jeanine’s work as a government agent. The fact that the state had intended to take Lia from her parents made Jeanine viewed as part of the scheme. All in all, she was given a chance to prove her innocence and lay bare her plans. She utilized this chance to absolve herself from those allegations and she managed. The time used by the hospital practitioners for back-biting Lia’s family and expressing demeaning comments about the Hmong could have been channeled to better things. In the long run, a lot of anguish, agony and confusion could have been averted. Subsequently, this change would have avoided Lia’s predicament. Peggy and Neil failed to employ this approach of collaboration and in its place, utilized intimidating measures. This resulted in the enhancement of the differences between the Merced County and Hmong society (Fadiman, 1997).
Fadiman’s depiction of the Hmong as an “ethically different” population is mystifying. He bases his idea on the innovative techniques of the unacquainted Hmong senior citizens. In respect to their way of life, she discovers that some Hmong individuals deliberately lie about their “physical and marital status as well as age” so as to acquire specific benefits. Realizing that this dishonest practice is in contrast with the humble and friendly Hmong personality, he concludes that surely the Hmong were ethically different. The Hmong population focused on their families rather than the nation. Regardless of the author’s sentiments towards the concept of cultural dependence, it ought to be comprehended that apart from age which had negligible influence since most Hmong individuals were unaware of their dates of birth, this community had beliefs that were identical to other communities. Their lying was not different from the rest of the human beings. With regard to this, the author intends to illustrate that duplicity is a survival reaction. However, this behavior was not allowed to thrive among the Hmong population.
According to the Western standards, Lia’s parents were uneducated. This is because they could not speak, read, or write English. Their understanding of medication and health care revolved around divine advisors, sacrifices and dreams. The attempt to enlighten them about the American health care fails as there was no translator of language.
The narration about Lia assists in highlighting the consequences brought about by traditional diversity and its effect on the medication sector. In Lia’s case, the customary beliefs and values contributed to her fate. It is also expressed that love and sociability may lead to a recurring effect. Sociability calls for mutual cooperation and relationship, which boost companionship. This in turn enhanced the significance of communication resulting in strong relations between individuals.
By assessing the matters presented in this narration, an extremely productive experience is acquired. Medical officers ought to be responsible enough while taking care of their patients. The trust conferred upon a medical practitioner by the patient should be regarded with uttermost respect. Doctors and nurses should respect the various cultures of their patients as well as treat all individuals equally regardless of their education background. With regard to the above case, institutions ought to improve their communication systems. Availing a professional translator would be essential in handling communication barriers between the medical practitioners and patients.