The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
“Foua never thought to ask, since she speaks no English, and when she delivered Lia, no one present spoke Hmong.” (pg 6)
I cannot imagine being somewhere where no one spoke the same language – let along receiving medical care and/or delivering a baby without anyone speaking the same language. That must have been not only a scary experience, but a lonely one too. To have no one there and no one there that spoke my language – I would have been terrified! I also cannot imagine not having an interpreter available. I was not aware that this was, or even could be, an issue in America (naïve of me). Foua first experience giving birth “Western” style must have been terrifying – completely different than what she was accustomed to, unable to communicate, and receive/follow directions. How difficult and frustrating for Foua and her family and for the medical staff. With the apprehension of the Hmong of Western medicine, it is no wonder that lack of communication and direction can precipitate this belief.
“The history of the Hmong’s yields several lessons that anyone who deals with them might do well to remember. Among the obvious ……do not like to take orders, that they do not like to lose, that they would rather fight, flight, flee, or die than surrender; that they are not intimidated by being outnumbered, that they are rarely persuaded by other customs of other customs ….., and they are capable of getting very angry.” (pg 17)
This should be common knowledge for most people. Common courtesy – who in their right mind likes to be ordered around? There is a right and wrong way in approaching and dealing with people. Nice and not so nice – unfortunately for the Hmong, it sounds as if most people were either annoyed, arrogant, or too busy to listen to and learn about the Hmong culture. It is essential to remember the fundamentals of humanity. Listen; be courteous, empathetic, and helpful. No one likes to be bossed around as well as being intimated or demand into something they don’t want to do. I don’t understand people who don’t remember this once they obtain a degree (or big accomplishment). It seems to go to their head and they don’t remember how to relate to others (more times than not). It is essential to remember where you have come from, how you’ve gotten there, and know that everything can be lost in an instance. Life is precious and others should be treated as you want to be treated.
“Each had accurately noted the same symptoms, but Dan would have been surprised to hear that they were caused by soul loss, and Lia’s parents would have been surprised to hear that they were caused by an electrochemical storm inside their daughter’s head that had been stirred up by the misfiring of aberrant brain cells.” (pg 28)
So much miscommunication – it is so sad to read! Each person wanted only the best for Lia, but ended up brings out the worst in each other. The miscommunication, the cultural barrier, as well as the misunderstanding – neither side ever thought to ask the other their thoughts, ideas, or questions on Lia’s condition. If that had happened – who could say if the outcome would be different? I would have thought a doctor would ensure that a patient’s family would fully understand the condition of their child, regardless of race/gender/origin. I thought it was part of the Hippocratic Oath that they take. I really do see the need for cultural competency classes now – to ensure that situations like this does not happen. However, situations like this probably happens more than we would like to think about and know about.
“In his opinion, the physicians and nurses at Ban Vinai failed to win the cooperation of the camp inhabitants because they considered the relationship one-sided, with the Westerners holding all the knowledge. As long as they persisted in this view……what the...