LIVING THE LAB LIFE
A BLOG FOR ASCLS REGION V
This book chronicles the tragic story of a refuge Hmong family living in Merced, California whose young child, Lia, falls ill and is diagnosed with Epilepsy. Lia then becomes caught in the vacuum created by the conflicting forces of her family’s cultural beliefs and the principles of Western medicine, ultimately leading to a heartbreaking end.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone working in health care. As all of our hospitals care for an increasingly diverse patient population, it is essential, now more than ever, that we are conscious of the varied cultural beliefs of our patients and how those beliefs shape what exceptional patient care looks like to them. The author does a beautiful job of humanizing both Lia’s family and the doctors who worked tirelessly to save young Lia’s life. By the end of the novel, the reader cannot help but feel sympathy for all involved and lament at so many missed opportunities to save Lia’s life.
This resonates with me at a very personal level. My family has experienced loss as a result of cultural beliefs that clash with modern medicine, resulting in the untimely death of a young cousin. Looking back, I know that my cousin’s parents should have consented to what his doctor recommended; but I can never fault them for their choices because I know they truly believed they were doing the right thing for him. While I have seen many other medical professionals become frustrated and give up on difficult patients, I always remember that no one walks into a hospital with the intention of compromising his or her own care. Each patient brings in his or her own set of beliefs and perceptions, but is the responsibility of the health care team to communicate effectively with the patient regardless of his or her background. We cannot accept anything less of ourselves, our patient’s lives are too important. Sometimes I wonder if my cousin would be alive today if his doctor had been able to communicate the dangers of not heeding her advice to my family; I am sure his doctor wonders the same thing.
Fadiman, A. (1997). The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down. New York City: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.