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Spirit Catches You

Spirit Catches You In the book “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman, a child named Lia Lee is taken away from her parents by Child Protective Services and placed in foster care. Because they arent giving her medication for epilepsy. Although resulting in some medical benefits those benefits were lost because of destructive psychological and emotional damage to Lia. Dr. Neil Ernst decided to call child protective services when Lia Lees parents Nou Kou and Foua were reluctant to give her her medicine. Dr.

Neil Ernst said: “I felt it was important for these Hmongs to understand that there were certain elements of medicine that we understood better than they did and that there were certain rules they had to follow with their kids lives. I wanted the word to get out in the community that if they deviated from that, it was not acceptable behavior.”(pg. 79 Fadiman). Dr. Ernst could have also been arrested for not reporting it.

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There were some alternatives to calling Child Protective Services such as my favorite one; having a nurse visit the Lees three times daily to administer the medications, but this thought did not occur to Dr. Ernst and/or seemed unreasonable at the time. Although Fadiman does not mention what Dr. Ernst thought about this course of action, I can only suspect that it would have been too expensive to have a nurse visit three times a day. Also they shouldnt be rewarded for their noncompliance by having someone else administer their daughters medication. It might have also provoked the Lees to anger because they didnt like to give Lia the medicine because of how the medicine made her depressed and sullen. After Lia was taken away for a period of a few weeks, Nou Kou almost beat an interpreter named Sue Xiong who was interpreting for a CPS (#) social worker.

Nou Kou said: “I was outside and Sue came inside and she called me and said, Come in here, you come in here. At that time I was ready to hit Sue, and I got a baseball bat right there. My son-in-law was with me, and he grabbed me and told me not to do it.”(pg. 91 Fadiman), so you can see the Lees were violent natured. The second reason the Nou Kou and Foua did not want to give their daughter the medicine was that they believed like other Hmongs that people with epilepsy are caught by a good or bad spirit which makes them fall to the ground (the Hmong word for epilepsy translates into: the spirit catches you and you fall down) and while their under siege they get messages from the gods. Many people in their culture with epilepsy become cultural healers or shamans.

The plan of sending a nurse would have been my plan. It would have been allot of time and money though. And when the Hmong community is already draining our resources through welfare doesnt make much sense to spend more money on them. It also would not have said that”our medicine is better” as good either. Although Dr. Neils plan of letting CPS handle it worked out for him it did not work out for Lia for she had more seizures at her foster home with the medicine than at home with missed and half dosses. The reason is because she did not want to be separated from her parents, and the emotional damage from the separation.

Some people would say it was selfish and lazy that Dr. Ernst did not at least try to use a nurse to administer the medication. I believe if I was Him that I would try sending a nurse for Two weeks to see if it would work and then make a decision. But on the other hand I believe that these stubborn, ignorant people shouldnt be pampered when they are already helping themselves to so much (#) from the tax payers through welfare. Because of these two issues of Dr.

Ernsts quickness to make a decision, and the Hmong community taking so much and giving nothing back, it is hard for me to make a decision and I feel myself “slipping” towards Dr. Ernsts decision. I dont blame Dr. Ernst for his decision which I think is the most logical choice and even if he tried my Two weeks idea it still wouldnt make sending a nurse any less expensive. All I am saying is that he should not have worried about teaching the Hmong community a lesson on reality so much and think more about the health of the individual named Lia Lee.

The Hmongs believe that to treat the body you must also treat the soul, what happened here is that Lias soul got hurt so she didnt get better at all, nor much worse. That is why I think the medicine didnt work effectively. It is unfortunate that cultural misunderstanding and language barriers got in the way of what could have been resolved much more easily. Bibliography Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

New York: The Noonday Press, 1997.


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