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HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

Medications Only One Hurdle

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Credit: NIAID, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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Hi, I’m Valerie a radio reader from Topeka and I’m in the middle of reading The Spirit Catches you and you Fall Down: a Hmong Child, Her American Doctors and the Collision of Two Cultures by Anne Fadiman. This book is part of HPPRs Radio Readers Book Club this go round with the theme Cultures in a Common Land.

Most of this book is about the clash of cultures and outlook towards healing and spirituality. Interestingly, I could totally relate to the Hmong point of view, as opposed to the American doctors.

The Lee’s infant daughter is diagnosed with epilepsy and to prevent seizures she is given an every-changing array of medicines that must be administered at different points throughout the day. The Lee’s don’t speak English and can’t read the labels nor did they understand the directions given by the doctors due to lack of interpreters. Consequently, their daughter Lia receives incorrect dosages or no medicines all together causing her condition to worsen which leads to revised medications and doses.

As if that weren’t enough, the Lee’s don’t necessarily agree with the doctors’ diagnosis and treatment plan. They do not view epilepsy as something awful but rather see it as a gift that denotes God’s favor on Lia.

Here’s what I could relate to and tell me if you agree: how many of you haven’t taken a doctor’s advice? How many of you never picked up a prescription (for whatever reason—cost, hate taking pills, etc.)? Have you ever changed the dose of a medication such as taking more or less? “I feel better. I don’t need that much.” Or “I have a horrible headache I’ll take 2 or 3 aspirin instead of 1.”

Just this week, I accidentally tripled the dose of one of my pills because they came in the same container by the same company and were nearly the same size as the pill I thought I was taking. So even without consciously changing the dosage of a medication as above, I still accidentally changed the dosage. And I can read the labels and know how much I’m supposed to take.  Luckily, I had no adverse reactions and recognized my error right away!

Unfortunately, the consequences for Lia were more severe and the doctors called social services due to child endangerment. Lia was removed from her parents’ custody over the issue. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about that.

What I found it interesting about this book is how much I sympathized with the “other” culture.

Our health, our bodies, our children, don’t we know what’s best for them?  If nothing else, this was a very interesting book to read in the middle of a pandemic! Let me know what you think. I’m Valerie, an HPPR radio reader from Topeka.