The book, “The Spirit catches you and You Fall Down,” talks about epilepsy. The story explores how people interpret this condition differently and how the different interpretations may affect people negatively. The choice of title is appropriate because I can deduce from it what the book talks about. In the story, there is a sense that people believe in spirits, which is quite true. The choice of the setting for this story is in a rural area where most people are superstitious while the few educated like Dan do not link any happenings with the spirits. This story talks about Lia, an epileptic girl whom her parents and those around her love her so much despite her discouraging condition (Fadiman, 103).
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People near Lia have linked her condition to an attack by spirits; a misconstrued thinking that has become a common belief until her encounter with Dan, a non-believer in spirits, who performs a series of tests to establish the cause of Lia’s condition. From the circumstances surrounding Lia’s condition, it is worthy to mention that, harmful cultural believes and low living standards are the causes of many problems the society faces.
I feel that the way the Lees interpret Lia’s condition as misleading. Those near and around her believe that Lia’s epileptic condition is simply an attack by evil spirits, implying that administration of medication would not cure this condition. The mention of Tony Coelho, another epileptic case, proves this idea. The Catholic Church denied him the right to become a priest because he was epileptic, meaning that he had evil spirits (Fadiman, 103). There is dire need for society to shun these believes because they are demeaning and attract negative consequences.
According to my opinion, it was also wrong for the Lees, like the Hmong, to believe that epilepsy denotes a social status. This believe makes them have false pride in Lia and forget that the condition needs medical intervention. Jeanine Hilt, a social worker who has worked with the Lees reveals that they are convinced that Lia’s condition is a blessing rather than a curse. As a result, Lia’s problem does not get timely medical intervention, resulting in worsening of her condition. Had the doctors diagnosed her problem early enough, I think they would have been at a position to control the situation. I like Dr. Murphy’s rational view of epilepsy.
It is the most welcome and the Lees should have adopted it from the onset; he believes that epilepsy is just a medical condition, which can be cured like any other disease. As a result, when Lia‘s parents take her to him for treatment, he sees her condition as a disease first and runs a series of tests to stop the seizures.
I also believe that the poor state of the Lees choice of hospital and their lack of finances have contributed to Lia’s worsening condition. Dr Murphy’s diagnosis reveals that Lia’s condition might have worsened due to lack early diagnosis. Murphy links this diagnosis with the problems encountered in the earlier visits. He establishes that Foua and Nao Kao had earlier diagnosed her condition as an illness whereby, an illness that catches an individual making him/her to fall down.
In fact, this diagnosis reveals so much about the lack of competence by these two professionals; they did not have the right word for this condition, making it difficult for Lia’s mother to know that her daughter was epileptic. In addition, the hospital’s financial position is poor due to high competition from two larger hospitals for high paying patients.
In a recap, many societies, like in Lia’s case, experience problems because of their cultural believes and economic conditions. This sad phenomenon happens in many cases without people actually realizing it. It is important that people try to fight poor economic conditions and avoid cultural believes that only serve to worsen any bad condition they encounter.
Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997.