The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman Essay

1st chapter reflections:

This chapter which introduced me to Lia’s family was interesting. I was shocked to read that in her mother’s country of Laos, Lia would have been born by her mother squatting on the floor! They also used special created remedies to solve health issues without relying on hospitals or clinics. It was also interesting to read how important the Hmong people believed in sprits and how their life decisions where decided around the sprit actions. For example, they believed that male sprit’s held up their house roof, if the male’s placenta was buried near the central pillar of the house.

Lia was even blessed by the elders because her parents believed that it was a way of protecting her from ever getting sick. If anything, reading this chapter quickly gave me a quick preview of the clash that Lia’s cultural beliefs will have with the American doctors when she gets sick in the future chapters.

However, I’m hoping that this book will pick up a little faster and have less history moving forward (being honest lol)

2nd chapter reflections:

This chapter started in a class at college; it continued to explain how a Hmong student spent extra time on his speech to talk about how people make fish soup in his culture. Once I finished the first page in this chapter, I understood that the young man was trying to explain to his class that we as humans should be more careful about how we select our foods because we are all connected in different ways. However, I didn’t pick up whether his class was interested after he was done with his speech.

This chapter preceded to dig deeper into the Hmong history by detailing their live in north China; N. China was were the Hmong people was subjected to wars, because they did not like to be told what to do or how to behave as a people. However, the Chinese did not like the Hmong people and called them degrading names because they wanted to overrule them. In response to this, the Hmong had to migrate many time and the Chinese finally applied enough pressure to overtake them. Even with the takeover, the Hmong people refused to show any respect to the Chinese emperor. Besides all of this history, I have yet to see how this will tie into Lia’s future health issue.

3rd chapter reflections:

This chapter starts to now focus on Lia and detail her first epileptic seizure that started when she was three months old. It was interesting to read that Lia’s parents blamed her seizure on their older daughter slamming the apartment’s front door. They believed that the front door slamming caused Lia’s soul to become frightened and lost from Lia’s body which triggered the seizure. I soon realized the book’s title “The spirit catches you and you fall down” is associated with the word epilepsy. It was also interesting to read that Lia’s parents saw her illness as a high distinction and a sign that Lia will grow up to heave a healing sprit within her.

It was sad to read that Lia had over twenty seizures before her parents became scared enough to take her to an emergency room at MCMC. At first this hospital had a hard time communicating with Lia’s parents because they only had a few interpreters and the doctors quickly concluded that Lia’s illness was because her parents were giving her veterinary medicine. The doctor’s conclusion was heighted when the baby came to the hospital twice coughing badly and showing signs of pneumonia during which the doctors prescribed antibiotics. Lia was seen the third time by chance with a visiting doctor named Dan Murphy and during this visit he wrote a report that stated he did not feel that her parents were not that frightened. Dr. Murphy and his wife quickly became interested in the Hmong people and worked on reviewing Lia previous documented visits. This chapter showed how cultures seen Lia’s illness differently; the American doctors wanted to give medication to cure or control the issue, while her parents thought it meant something special.

4th chapter reflections:

This chapter showed how the Hmong people viewed the American medical system because they did not understand why certain doctor procedures such as blood drawing had to be done. It was funny to read that they asked one Hmong women that returned to Laos about why American doctors ate people livers, kidneys, and brains! If anything, I read and understood that there was a HUGE difference between how American and Hmong people saw medical. The Hmong people believed that doctors done nothing but made people worse by invading their body sprits with all the test and medication.

5th chapter reflections:

This chapter returned to Lia’s illness and explained that she was sent to the hospital seventeen times before he was even five years old! It was sad for me to read how worse the illness was getting and how Lia started to become aware of when she was about to experience one. This chapter also highlighted the fact that doctors believed that her obesity contributed to her epilepsy events and it made her intravenous access difficult. However, her parents focused on making Lia fat because they believed that this showed that a child was healthy and extremely taken care of. The hospital staff was also upset because Lia’s parents would move her in the hospital bed when they were previously requested not to for health reasons. The relationship between Lia’s parents worsen because the doctors felt that her parents were not giving her the proper needed medication and felt that they were part of the reason why Lia’s health continued to decline. After many attempts to get the parents on board, to give medication, Lia was placed in a foster care. This chapter was heartbreaking for me because I felt and understood both sides that wanted to care for Lia.

6th chapter reflections:

This chapter explained in detail about how the Hmong people living in camps, shared horrible news about living in America and dealing with the medical system. In my opinion, this chapter confirmed how bad the cultural differences split people apart from seeing a common ground and added stress on her US healthcare system because Hmong people only came into the ER when they were gravely ill and not for prevention.

7th chapter reflections:

This chapter explained how much of a power trip people had when it came to offering the best option for Lia’s health. It was noted that Lia did not do well in a great foster home and her developmental skills decreased more as she stayed. Her seizures also increased and the only time she started to show so signs of improvement was when she admitted to a hospital in Turlock where the people she was staying with lived. Receiving care in Turlock casued a decrease her medication requirements and her allowed her to return home. However, I felt that if anything, everyone involved in her health care was guessing and using Lia as a test dummy at her expense.

8th chapter reflections:

This chapter was interesting because I was surprised to read that the doctors at the MCMC told the author not to look into Lia’s case because her parents were not friendly. I also thought that the hospital was trying to protect themselves by keep the author in the dark about certain information regarding the handling of Lia’s health. For example, the hospital kept a close eye by setting up a community meeting with the author and the Hmong people through their own nurse’s aide (who also was Hmong). If my opinion, the author was doomed to begin with because the Hmong people resented the MCMC and any staff that communicated with them. This is why I believe that the author had such a hard time during this meeting with them and a more welcoming one when she went and was introduced by Ms. Waller. This meeting is where the Hmong people opened up and tried to explain their culture to her without bring angry. This chapter proved that being from a different culture is fine; people not respecting other cultures besides their own is what causes these deep miscommunications.

9th chapter reflections:

This chapter was sad. I thought that Lia’s health was going to continue to improve after the doctor mentioned that the parents were giving her the correct medicine. However, I wasn’t surprised that the Lee’s thought that the doctor’s took Lia because they were angry at them. I was shocked to read that she fell off the swing and went back into having bad seizures. I don’t think I would have allowed my child to even be on one if he or she had health issues like Lia. Sad to think that her parents thought that their child’s troubles were over and that she was going to live a productive and happy life up until this fall. Like everyone else in this chapter, after the tubes and everything, I also saw death coming later on. I’m just hoping that she doesn’t suffer.

10th chapter reflections:

Ok. This is (again) is one of the things I did not enjoy about the book. I don’t understand why this extensive history about the Hmong people and Vietman/ American war has anything to do with the previous chapter on Lia’s health condition. Only thing I learned from this chapter was that the Hmong people really resented the American culture which includes why the Lees has trouble trusting the doctors treating Lia.

11th chapter reflections:

This chapter was the saddest part of the book that I have read thus far. I had to stop midway through the pages because it reminded me so much of my mother’s last struggle when lung cancer ( I cried reading this). I felt every page of this chapter because Lia’s parents and everyone else that loved her wanted to try everything instead of allowing her to pass peacefully. I also can relate to how Lia parents were treated in the hospital because I was in their position where I did not understand what was going on with my mom… but the doctors were pressuring me to turn off her breathing machine. I noticed that Lia’s parents got to a point where they did not care that there were “issues” between them and the American staff… they just wanted their child saved.. I felt the same way during my mother’s last rush to the ER because she couldn’t breathe. This girl wasn’t going to have a long happy life and I’m hoping she didn’t suffer because of everyone else stubbornness!

12th chapter reflections:

Another history chapter and after the previous chapter, I was drained. I understand that hardship that this culture had to endure and I hope that our entire health care system has learned from this little girl’s mistreatment amongst all parties involved.

13th chapter reflections:

So I started reading this chapter believing that Lia was going home from the hospital in Fresno. I was surprised to read that she was sent back to the MCMC and placed in the pediatric unit. In my opinion, there was nothing left they could do that would not require the poor child to suffer. I wasn’t shocked to read that Lia’s father tried to steal his child out of the hospital; the attitudes of the hospitals staff, nurses, and Lia’s parents were so negative that this craziness was bound to happen. Sadly, even with the little girl not functioning, the doctors and her parents enter another struggle to control the fate of Lia. Even though the doctors said she would die soon after leaving the hospital, I’m glad that the lee had personal time for closure at their own house because she didn’t die yet. I refuse to get into the “who was more right”.

14th chapter reflections:

Another chapter on their Hmong history; This chapter details the issues they had with adjusting to American life and how no one wanted to be on welfare. No comments on my part.. Besides I didn’t enjoy this section lol.

15h chapter reflections:

This chapter picked me up, made me sad and made me smile all at the same time. Reading through this made me think how differently her life could have been if everyone around her were open-minded when she first entered the hospital for treatment. Her current condition is considered a “persistent vegetative state” but how her parents treated her has not changed. This chapter showed that she is highly still loved and cared for even though she is not aware of anything. But she had a lot of potential to be a much healthier child if both cultures (American& Hmong) would have been willing to accept each other… her health decisions got lost in their hardheadedness!

16h chapter reflections:

This chapter discuses history again but focuses on how the Hmong people ended up living in Merced; I’m not shocked that they created their own community here and cling to each other because I would of done the same thing if I was displaced.

17h chapter reflections:

This chapter refocused Lia’s case and talked about how much could have been done differently to change her outcome and I agree. I ashamed of the hospital staff that believed that the lees should be grateful because they allowed them $200,000 of free medical cost( that should never be on a person mind when you talking about saving someone’s life) and I wish the parents would of learned how to be more open after their child’s health issue… I see that people STILL want to place blame on Lia’s condition instead of accepting the fact that everyone placed a role in creating her current health state.

18h chapter reflections:

This chapter shared a lot of my own opinions about Lia’s case. I do understand that some cultural difference will never be resolved because of the history of mistreatment that has occurred within that person’s culture. Our race issues in American is no difference, some people will always see things and their interactions with people as a “race” problem and nothing more. However, if you work in a hospital helping other people, you need to be able to look beyond that, not take things personally, not judgmental, and be open to learn about the different people that enters the doors for help.

19h chapter reflections:

This chapter showed that despite Lia’s current condition, her family still believes that she will change and become a full functioning child again once her soul returns. Finishing this chapter, and reading the author notes throughout the book, I now see that Anne Fadiman started the story sort of believing that the doctors at Merced done everything they could to help Lia. However towards the end I felt that the author wanted people to understand the lee family and their hardship with adjusting to living in America and dealing with our health care system.

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