PB HLTH 198
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is the riveting narrative of a clash between modern American medicine and ancient Hmong beliefs, an of the fight over the body and soul of a very sick young girl. Anne Fadiman’s thorough, compassionate, and scrupulously fair presentation of Lia Lee’s story provides a balanced and unbiased view of events. Fadiman examines every facet of a complex situation, while challenging her readers’ perspectives on medicine and spirituality.
In an attempt to control her ever-worsening seizures, the doctors placed Lia on a complicated drug regime that would have been difficult for English-speaking parents to follow, let alone the non-English-speaking Lees. The Lees failed to comply with this complicated regimen both because they did not understand it and because they did not want to.
CPS removed Lia from her devastated parents and placed her with a foster family in an attempt to make sure her medications were administered properly. Lia lived with the Korda family for ten months, during which time Dee Korda scrupulously followed the complicated drug protocol and became devoted to the difficult but lovable Lia. Despite this, Lia deteriorated, improving only when she was put on a new, simpler drug regime. The Lees, shamed that their daughter had been taken from them and shattered by the loss, threatened suicide before Lia was finally returned to the family home.
During her first four months home, Lia improved markedly, suffering only one seizure. The Lees not only complied with her medical protocol but also gave her the best Hmong treatment available, including amulets filled with healing herbs from Thailand (at a cost of one thousand dollars) and a trip to Minnesota for treatment by a famous txiv neeb, or medicine man. Lia’s seizures did return, however, and in...