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Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down

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Category: History Other

Autor: anton 16 March 2011

Words: 2873 | Pages: 12

The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down - Summary and Reading Log

Chapter 1 - Birth

Chapter 1 goes through the traditional birthing methods and traditions of the Hmong people. One of the most significant traditions is burying the placenta. The placenta has to be strategically buried in a specific spot under the homes dirt floor or when the person dies its soul has to travel back to the placenta. This chapter also introduces the characters Nao Kao and Foua Lee. Nao is husband and father of 13 children (some of which died at an early age). Foua is the mother and wife.

In the first chapter Nao gives birth to Lia Lee in an American hospital, their first child to be born in a hospital. Lia was born July 19, 1982. The baby appeared to be healthy and was released from the hospital 3 days later. The main focus of this chapter is comparing the birth of the children in Laos (where Nao and Foua were from) to the American birthing traditions

Chapter 2 - Fish Soup

This chapter explains different people’s perspectives of the Hmong people and the history of the Hmong. The Chinese people thought of Hmongs as dirty, barbaric humans. The Chinese people were not accepting of the Hmong and eventually the Hmong had enough of China and many Hmong migrated. Two very important traits of the Hmong that are expressed in this chapter are that they don’t like to take orders or to lose. The main point of this chapter is to give some background knowledge on who Hmongs are and why many of them migrated. The reason this chapter is called fish soup is because a Hmong boy is giving a presentation on how to make fish soup and spends all of his time explaining all the things you need to do before you make the soup then that actual recipe. This represents a lot about Hmong culture because it is said that if a Hmong tells a folktale he would begin with the very beginning of the world.

Chapter 3 - The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

This chapter introduces the beginning of Lia’ seizures... Her older sister slammed the door and she started seizing. This would be the beginning of many more seizures to come. In Hmong these symptoms were called quab dab peg which translates to, the spirit catches you and you fall down. The Lee’s were both happy and sad about Lia’s seizures. In Hmong seizures are considered to have special powers and usually become Shamans, but at the same time the Lees were worried about their child’s health. This chapter also starts to get into the problems with the language and cultural barriers between the American doctors and the Lee family.

Chapter 4 - Do Doctors Eat Brains?

This chapter describes the Hmongs concerns with the American doctors. Mao Thao, a Hmong woman who spent time living in the U.S. addressed the concerns to 15,000 Hmongs who had many questions about the American doctors. The main point of this chapter is to explain some of the reasons why the Hmongs feared American doctors and why they avoided the hospital at all cost.

Chapter 5 - Take as Directed

This chapter talks about the severity of Lia’s epilepsy and all the medications that Lia was placed on in order to try and tame her seizures. The Lee family had problems giving Lia the proper dosage of her medication. The MCMC staff has problems getting Lia to take her medication and getting her parents to give it to her. They didn’t know if her parents did not want to give her the medicine or if they didn’t know what to do. During one of Lia’s grand mal seizures that took place in this chapter she stopped breathing and had to have a breathing tube to keep her alive. The doctors start to believe that the seizures are causing retardation and that if Nao and Foua would give the child the medicine as directed she would be getting better. Neil (Lia’s doctor) decides that if the parents of Lia can’t give her, her medicine prescribed then she needs to be placed in the care of someone who can.

Chapter 6 - High-Velocity Transcortical Lead Therapy

This chapter touches on how the Hmong’s fears of the American doctors have an impact on their health. The Hmong think that the doctor is out to get them and they are afraid of them, therefore they avoid going to the doctor unless it’s their last resort. This chapter focuses on some of the conflict between the Hmong healing traditions and the doctor’s practice in medicine. The Hmongs took the doctors prescriptions as advice not as orders, and they did whatever they wanted regardless of what the doctor prescribed, but at the same time if they left the doctor’s office without being prescribed something, they felt cheated. The doctors and the Hmong have many problems communicating because of the language barrier and cultural barrier. This makes it hard for the doctors to try and treat someone, and some of the Hmong’s healing techniques aren’t acceptable and considered abuse in America.

Chapter 7 -Government Property

In this chapter Lia is taken out of her home into the foster care because her parents weren’t following the doctor’s orders. She was placed back with her family but they still were not giving Lia the proper dosage of her meds so she was sent to live with a Foster family for 6 months. Her parent missed her terribly, but could not get her back until the 6 months were up and they proved they were capable and would give Lia her medications as directed. Dee, Lia’s foster-mom told the authorities that Lia should be placed back in her home, but they refused until the six months was up. If after 6 months Kao and Foua could not prove they could take care of Lia, they would permanently lose her. Lia returned home on April 30, 1986.

Chapter 8 - Foua and Nao Kao

This chapter explains how the narrator was introduced to the Lee’s. She wanted to research their history and look through Lia’s medical records. She was worried that the Lee’s would not want to talk with her, but to her surprise they were very nice, warm people. She had a girl named May Ying to translate, and she learned a lot about the Hmong culture, the Lee’s experiences with the doctors, and life back in Laos. The Lee’s were very hospitable and open.

Chapter 9 - A little Medicine and a Little Neeb

This chapter talks about Lia coming home. Her family spent $300 on a cow that they sacrificed for Lia’s health. The Lee’s devoted a lot of time and money into Lia’s health. They took Lia to Minnesota to visit a twix neeb, they also were giving her proper dosages of her medication. Lia’s was getting a lot better and started attending school. She fell off of a swing one day and started to seize, it was a very serious seizure and three weeks after she was discharged she was admitted again. The doctors are faced with a problem because they don’t know what else to do to prevent the seizures and they fear that one day Lia may have a seizure they can’t stop, and she might die


Chapter 10 - War

Chapter 10 talks about the “Quiet war” in which the United States recruited Hmong soldiers to fight for them in Laos (near the Vietnam border) against communism. Many Americans didn’t know what was going on in Laos, but Laos was submersed with the war.The war took place from 1968-1972. A lot of the Hmong soldiers were being killed so the soldiers became younger and younger. The wives of the killed soldiers sometimes married their husband’s brothers who may have already had wives to support or be very young. In 1973, Kissinger signed the Veintiane Agreement and the USAID stopped its aid program to Laos. Between 1,000 and 3,000 Hmong(mostly the high-ranking army official’s families) were sent via airplane to Thailand. More than 10,000 Hmong were left of the airfield expecting more planes to take them to Thailand, but they never came. The started walking to Thailand…

Chapter 11 - The Big One

This chapter is about “The Big One.” Doctors were expected Lia to have a massive seizure that would be fatal, and she finally did. On the day before Thanksgiving she had a seizure and her dad called his nephew to get an ambulance. The ambulance came and took her to MCMC, but they were unable to stop her seizures. She kept seizing no matter how many drugs they gave her to stop them. Neil was on-call and came to try to get Lia to stop seizing but had difficulties. When she finally stopped seizing, she was lifeless and transferred to Pediatric Intensive Care Unit in Fresno. Everyone assumed that Lia was going to die. They were just waiting for it to happen. When everyone repeatedly told the Lee’s that their daughter was going to die they decided to take her back to Merced to let the family see her before she died.

Chapter 12 - Flight

This chapter discusses the hardships he Hmong families faced when walking to Thailand from Laos. Many people died, starved, and were shot at. It was not an easy journey; they had to carry the elderly, the young, and their belongings. They also had to watch out for landmines, gunshots, and people trying to catch them on fire. When people died they just left them there and kept walking, everyone had to worry about their own well-being and not dwell on their dieing family members. Some families even tried to kill their children so they wouldn’t be loud and give away the Hmong’s whereabouts. Foua tells a story about her baby boy dieing because she wasn’t eating and she wasn’t producing any breast milk to feed him.

Chapter 13 - Code X

When Lia was transported back to Merced her family did everything they could think of to help her feel better. They made her special foods that are suppose to cure the ill and rubbed herbs all over her. Even though the Lee’s were using their rituals to restore Lia’s help, her condition did not change. They asked to take Lia home so that she could die in peace at home with her family. The doctors agreed and were explaining to Nao the requirements that he must agree to in order to send Lia home. They were trying to explain that in 2 hours they could take her home, but Nao thought they were saying in two hours she was going to die. In Hmong culture to predict a death will result in a dab trying to steal their soul. Nao grabbed Lia, ripped out her tubes and ran out of the hospital. An emergency security code x was called. They recovered Lia, replaced her tubes, and she was released in 4 hours.

Chapter 14 - The Melting Pot

The Melting Pot talks about how life was for the Hmongs when they came to America. They weren’t accustomed to the culture and while Americans wanted the Hmongs to assimilate they refused to give up their own culture. Everything that seems so normal to American’s seemed so strange to the Hmong. They had to be taught everything from how to use a toilet to social norms. Most Hmongs had difficulties learning English and finding jobs that would support their large families. So, most of them were on welfare, collecting money from the government in order to survive. Many Hmong started moving to California to be closer to their clans. If they were close to their clans they would have more support because the clan will help out their clan members.

Chapter 15 - Gold and Dross

When Lia came back home to live she was lifeless and she just layed there. Her mother, Foua, took good care of her and kept her immaculate. She was always well groomed, healthy, and a very beauty child. She did not resemble other children that have severe brain damage. Everyone realized that her mother was an excellent caregiver and Lia would always be under the supervision of Foua and Nao. Neil, Lia’s doctor, was very upset about Lia’s state and cried. Foua gave him a hug and thanked him. The title of this chapter is called Gold and Dross because Martin, one of Lia’s doctors, came over to treat Lia and her parents were noncompliant and showed no emotion towards him. On page 223 it says that, “each party in this doomed relationship had managed to convert the other’s gold into dross.”

Chapter 16 - Why did they pick Merced?

Why did the Hmongs choose to live in Merced? This chapter discusses why people thought that the Hmongs fled to Merced. There is a large population of Hmongs in Merced, but it doesn’t seem to be a typical town for foreigners to come to. In Merced every 6 resident was Merced and most of them all lived in a constricted area of town. There were fourteen Hmong clans that lived in Merced and the Hmongs liked to be near their clans for support. It was Hmong tradition to help the members of your clan so they knew that if they lived near their clan members they would have financial and emotional support. This also helped the Hmongs to keep their culture because instead of depending on Americans and living in a American society it was like living in a small town of Hmong people. One of the main reasons why the Hmongs chose Merced was because of Dang Moua. Dang worked for California Custom Social Services he was a Hmong who understood the Hmong culture and was pursuing the American dream and could help confused Hmongs.

Chapter 17 - The Eight Questions

This chapter jumps back and fourth from blaming the doctor’s for Lia’s fate and blaming the parents for not listening to doctors orders. There will probably never be an answer to who is at blame for Lia’s vegetative state, but no one has a problem pointing the finger at someone. The Hmongs feel like the doctor’s gave the child too much medicine and if they were still living in Laos then she may be ok. The doctors feel that if Lia would have been taking the proper medication all along then this tragedy may have been prevented. This chapter gives examples of when western medicine was the right choice and when the Hmong’s cultural remedies turned out to cure the problem.

This chapter is called The Eight Questions because there was a set of 8 questions developed by Arthur Kleinman. The questions could have helped solve some of the health care confusion with the culture barrier. If the Lee’s were asked these questions in the very beginning the Doctor’s would have known early on that their cultural views are very different than American’s and they would need special attention and education in order for the Lia’s to follow the doctor’s orders. Neil and Peggy were very surprised when they heard how the Lee’s answered these questions.

Chapter 18 - The Life or the Soul

This chapter talks about some of the cultural barriers that the doctors and the Hmong dealt with. The name of this chapter is The Life or the Soul because it is argued in this chapter what is more important the life or the soul? Should western medicine fight for the patient’s life or is the soul more important. Sometimes western medicine interferes with the harmony of the soul and that’s why many Hmong refuse to be treated by doctors in fear that they will loose their soul. The conflict arises when Hmong parent’s refuse to give their children proper treatment. Doctor’s believe that child should be treated because if not they might die and will never have the choice to follow their culture or American culture, on the other hand the Hmong think that the soul is more important and if they die because they go untreated at least their soul is alive and at peace.

Chapter 19 - The Sacrifice

The beginning of this chapter talks about the history of the mythology of the Hmong culture. Although the Lee’s felt like Lia’s condition was beyond any spirtitual healing at this tpoint they still had a txiv need perform a sacrifice in hopes of finding her soul. This chapter goes through the sequence of events they go through when sacrificing the two pigs (a small one for the family and a larger one for Lia). Lia’s cousin cut the throat of the pigs because he txiv need needed to be on good terms with the animals in order for the sacrifice to work. The book ends with the txiv need doing a sacrificial dance and chanting for Lia’s soul to come home. This was the most dangerous part of the ceremony because while he danced his soul was believed to have traveled from his body and if he would happen to fall he would die, and even if he succeeded in not falling a dab could capture his soul while it was out of his body.

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