Different Challenges in Working with Hmong People

Categories: BooksMedicine

In the novel, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, we see multiple different approaches being used in order to attend to and treat Lia’s epilepsy. It becomes evident that in helping professions it is crucial that helpers take time to focus on what is best for their client and their families. Hmong patients that came into the hospital often felt disregarded and unheard by almost all of the medical professionals. This was most likely because of the massive misunderstanding about Hmong culture and Western Medicine.

Today, in order for helping professionals to best treat and advocate for their clients it is vital that people are considerate of others racial, religious, and cultural beliefs.

The Hmong had many doubts about American doctors because of their extremely inexact preconceived ideas of Western medicine. Despite their uncertainty and hesitation toward doctors, Lia’s parents, Nao Kao and Foua still took her to the emergency room when any seizures had occurred. The medical model is important because the process of trial and error is crucial for finding the best treatment possible for a patient.

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The medical model is a term used to describe a set of procedures which all doctors are required to be trained for. Although the Lee’s had trouble understanding what Lia’s seizures were, “I don’t think the mom and dad ever truly understood the connection between a seizure and what it did to the brain” (Fadiman 48). Without fully understanding the effect a seizure could cause, the Lee’s could not comprehend the importance of the multitude of tests that were done to their daughter.

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The Lees’ confusing and separation had devastating effects on her treatment and development. Since the Lee’s had stopped giving Lia her medication for three months, she experienced a seizure so severe that it caused her to stop breathing. Dan Murphy the resident on duty had to insert a breathing tube down her throat then immediately transferred Lia to a highly-equipped facility much further away. As a result, Lia wasn’t able to breathe on her own until after 24 hours on a respirator. Another situation which delayed Lia’s treatment was her challenge with her weight and administering intravenous medications. This meant in order to administer a needle into her arm doctors had to cut open and tie off several of her veins. The doctors would tie her limb down so that the IVs would last longer. In addition to that, her father did not understand the reasoning behind his daughter being tied up. The Medical Model could have been very effective in treating Lia’s epilepsy. This model was unable to help Lia because the Lee’s did not do their part and follow the necessary instructions for this model to work. Throughout the novel, it is stated that Lia dislikes swallowing her medications. In addition to that, her parents were also uncertain about what, and how much they were supposed to give her. Neil and Peggy didn’t know if she had seizures because she wasn’t taking enough medication, or her parents weren’t giving her the proper doses because they hadn’t understood the directions.

Throughout the story, the hospital staff often dishonored the Hmong culture, and something major that the medical personnel could have done differently was to be more open and accepting to the cultural traditions of the Hmong people. An example of this could have been having more people to help translate and allowing the family to take Lia’s placenta home. In May 1985, Lia was put in a foster home with Mennonite sisters who would tie her in a car seat in the living room when she began to get hyperactive. Two weeks later, she was sent home to her parents for another chance. After taking blood tests when she returned home it still showed she wasn’t receiving the proper dosages. Lia was soon after removed again for a placement of at least six months. While Lia’s health issues were affecting her greatly she also had to deal with moving from home to home and being away from her family/support system. Although the parents were not making the right choices for Lia, putting her in foster care might not have been such an effective idea.

Unlike the Medical Model, the Human Services Model gives medical professionals and clients the ability to incorporate the individual with their environment, in regard to their treatment. The focus on mental health and therapeutic/noninvasive treatment would have been a better fit for the Lee Family because of their Hmong values and beliefs. Something that could have been done differently was not moving Lia between different homes and away from her parents. Aside from their inability to give her proper medical care, Lia should have stayed at the hospital instead of going to Valley Children’s hospital. A necessary part of Lia’s treatment was taking her prescribed medication every day. This was Lia’s parent’s responsibility because she was not old enough to administer her own medication. The Lee’s failure to follow the strict medication regimen, “The fact that Lia’s parents refused to give her the medication at least in part because of cultural or religious reasons…” (Fadiman 80). The Lee’s believed they knew what treatment was best for Lia and changed dosages themselves. The barrier between the Hmong culture and Westernized medicine delayed Lia’s treatment and regimen.

It did not take long until Nao Kao and Foua were legally no longer fit to care for Lia, which caused her to be thrown into foster care. Jeanine Hilt, Lia’s social worker assigned to Lia’s case, played a major role in both her mental and physical treatment. Jeanine Hilt was determined to work with the Lee’s and do anything needed for the family to be together again. Over time the Lee’s and Jeanine built a strong relationship. The Lee’s close family relationship was one Jeanine also longed for, which gave her a continuous desire and motivation to help Lia’s family.

Looking at Jeanine Hilt’s character, I believe that she was highly effective when she was providing care to the Lee family. This is because of the continuous shows compassion and a drive for helping clients and progressing her career. Another trait that made Hilt such a successful helping professional was her ability to adapt and teach people with various cultural backgrounds, and identities. Hilt was able to educate the Lees about properly and continuously administering medication and necessary treatments so that Lia could return home to her family. Without the help of Jeanine, Lia might not have been able to come home to her family. I would also consider one of Jeanine’s greatest personal traits to be her patients to learn about the Hmong people. It could be assumed that none of the other medical professions wanted to take the time and effort to fully understand the Hmong culture. Jeanine Hilt did everything in her power to help keep the family intact and to make sure that Lia received care that would eventually save her life.

Personally, I would find it difficult to work with the Lee Family, being a human service professional holds many challenges on its own regardless of outside factors. If I was to be a human service professional working with the Lees, it would be challenging because of the language barrier. This challenge that was presented in the book almost immediately and continues to be for multiple medical professionals. Aside from language, culture is another aspect of the Lee family which caused issues among the staff at MCMC. I believe that this would be a challenge for me, especially because I do not have much experience with other cultures and religions. Although there are many issues I would face regarding the Lee family, I would be best at finding new ways to communicate with the family. Even though I would be unable to speak their language, I could still find other ways to transfer information and communicate in order to avoid misunderstanding and frustration. Based on my values and beliefs I feel that providing good care begins with being motivated and passionate about what you are doing. When you genuinely love the work that you are doing, it will leave you with a unique rewarding feeling.

Throughout this class thus far, I have learned a lot about what personal and professional traits are necessary to be an effective human service worker. Other things that I have taken away from class are the importance of diversity, inclusion, and solving problems in the best way possible. One value of mine that makes me believe I will be a successful human service worker is my ability to be compassionate but direct. This allows me to be able to help clients express themselves and then focus on making the situation better. I am often very good at understanding how people are feeling even if I have never been in a similar situation to that person. Some other characteristics I have that would be helpful as a human service worker is being trustworthy, empathetic, persistent, and a good listener. One value I have that might impede my success is my lack of patience in certain situations. Although I am very understanding and empathetic, sometimes I have a difficult time working with people that are careless and negative. Another value that I possess that might affect my ability to work in certain situations is my perfectionist and all or nothing mentality. In order to not let characteristics like that get in the way of my career, it is important that I separate my personal life from my work life.

In The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, there are various forms of medical attention being used in order to provide care to the Lee family. While their daughter was battling severe epilepsy, some forms of treatment were more and less effective than others. By the end of the novel, Lia was able to overcome her illness and begin to live a more normalized life after receiving care from the medical staff at MCMC. Although Lia was greatly impacted by her seizures and lost minor functions, she was still able to spend time with her family. Without the help of human service professionals such as Jeanine Hilt, Neil, and Peggy, Lia may not have been given the ability to live in society and build a future.

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Different Challenges in Working with Hmong People. (2021, Aug 10). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/different-challenges-in-working-with-hmong-people-essay

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