Doctor and Hmong Rituals Essay

Submitted By Mohamedipod1
Words: 333
Pages: 2

When my son Daryl was newborn and diagnosed with a chronic condition, my husband and I gathered second and third and fourth opinions, taking him to every recommended neurosurgeon within a hundred-mile radius. We would sit in their offices, I as caretaker feeding or comforting my days-old infant while the men conversed. At some point during the consultation the doctor would measure Daryl’s head. With his meaty hand he’d push down on my baby’s fontanel; having been raised with fearful admonitions to never touch a baby’s ‘soft spot,’ I nearly fainted. I was convinced the doctors were mad.

That is the way Foua and Nao Kao Lee must have felt about the doctors at Merced County Community Hospital who tended to their baby daughter Lia when she began having seizures—but while I worried about damage to my baby’s head, the Lees worried about damage to their baby’s soul. In the Hmong culture, sickness is a signal of disturbance to the soul, and healing is a matter of tending to it. When did you last see an American doctor do that?

Even had the doctors who cared for Lia known about the Lees’ belief system, they probably wouldn’t have given it much weight. As things were, they knew very little about their patient’s family: not only did the Lees not understand English, but the Hmong culture is so far from anything remotely American, their doctors had neither the ears to hear nor the consciousness to absorb it. To them, as to many Americans, the Hmong are a “Stone Age” people,…