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It may have been this lack of love that hindered them from considering their patients' points of view and adjusting their methods accordingly.The majority of Hmong living in Laos lost both friends and relatives and their homes as a result of the Hmong involvement in the Vietnam War.They believe that most disease has a spiritual cause and can be alleviated through traditional forms of healing such as rubbing the skin with coins, creating a vacuum by igniting cotton soaked in alcohol under a tiny cup, or drawing disease out with an egg.
They place great importance on the clan; for instance, one reason that Foua and Nao Kao accepted Fadiman and her interpreter, May Ying, is that May Ying's husband belonged to the Lee's clan.
Fadiman notes that family obligations sometimes put enormous demands on people, such as Jonas Vangay, a community leader who lived with his wife, his three children, his two brothers and their wives, and his brothers' ten children.
She alone among Lia's caregivers thought to ask Foua and Nao Kao about their beliefs about Lia's epilepsy and to learn about their customs.
Because of the love she showed them, Foua accepted her help and learned to administer Lia's medication, which led to regaining custody.
Even Fadiman, whose sympathies lie with the Lees, expresses this view: "Dwight Conquergood's philosophy of health care as a form of barter, rather than a one-sided relationship, ignores the fact that, for better or for worse, Western medicine is one-sided.
Doctors endure medical school and residency in order to acquire knowledge that their patients do not have" (276).Another social worker was able to persuade a patient with tuberculosis to take her medication by working within the family's belief system; like Jeanine, she loved her clients.In Fadiman's opinion, Lia's doctors, Neil Ernst and Peggy Philp, liked the Hmong, but they didn't love them.The story therefore begs the question of whether it is in the patient's best interest to privilege Western knowledge.Lia's story reveals the strength of the family within Hmong culture.Vangay explains that for a Hmong, unlike an American, "it is never everyone for himself" (247).Clearly, Foua and Nao Kao loved their daughter Lia very much, and it may be their love (and subsequent care for her) that prolonged Lia's life. Jeanine Hilt, the social worker assigned to Lia when she was placed in foster care, grew to love the family, and in return, they loved her too.For example, Foua explained to Fadiman that she felt it was important to use both western medicine and neeb, or shamanic ritual.The Hmong believe that sometimes people get sick due to something that happens to their soul, or because they encounter an evil spirit called a dab. Every other chapter shares some aspect of Hmong history or culture: food, clothing, language, family structure, birthing rituals, and so on.The Hmong traditionally lived high in the mountains of Laos, where they practiced agriculture and subsisted primarily on rice, vegetables, herbs, and occasionally pork or chicken.