I was not surprised by the affection given, because the foster parents seemed like open minded and friendly people, and once they got a grasp on the situation at hand they knew that they needed to help care for this child and not make things any worse. In the end, even when getting regular medication, Lia still had several epileptic episodes, so no, I do not think that foster care helped anything except make Lia feel anxious about being away from her mother and family. The only benefit I can see is that the Lee family gained one more advocate for their situation.

Another advocate for the Lee family was Jeanine Hilt, who was their social worker up until her death in 1993, due to complications from an asthma attack. I believe Jeanine was able to reach the Lee family and gain their trust because they used one of the Lee daughters, May, to translate, which afforded the family the ability to have May repeat something they forgot later; she was not an overly tall person, therefore was not intimidating (in fact, she was the Hmong family's same height and size). Also, she did not belittle their way of life and was a great help to the family in communicating things they needed or did not understand, but mostly, she helped them get their daughter back from foster care.

What is especially interesting and sad about this case and this book, is that the main character, Lia, never speaks beyond saying her parents names. However, she is the most important person in this book. In the end, the parents and the doctors do not matter, only she does, because it is so sad that she doesn't understand what it happening to her and she can't make decisions for herself. It is easy to know her nonetheless, through the numerous accounts and interviews of her personality from her parents, foster parents, doctors, nurses and Jeanine. I feel I know her personality, but not how she felt about everything that was going on around her. That is probably impossible to know. Although in the end, when she is just a body with a damaged brain beyond repair, she is still valuable. She serves to remind doctors who work on patients with a different belief system and culture from themselves, that it is not wrong or stupid to belief in something different. She will always be on her doctors' minds and will be there the next time they need to communicate with someone who has a language barrier, or a fear of American medicine. Those doctors will continue to think about her, even if (as in the book), many of the doctors referred to her as "dead" or in the past tense though she is very much alive. Mostly, the medical community will hopefully learn more means to work with difficult cases like this one with more class and open-mindedness.


Fadiman, A. (1997). The spirit catches you and you fall down: A hmong child, her american doctors, and the collision of two cultures.. New York, NY:…