Archive for July, 2011

A Remarkable Journey Of A Lifetime

It took me so many times to write, re-write, and re-write this article. Somehow, I just could not find the right way to start it, and I could not seem to get my thoughts organized. Perhaps, it was because of that overwhelming emotion that I felt in my heart; of a realization that, without a speck of a hint, I had a very rare, once-in-a-lifetime chance to spend some valuable time with a special person.

I visited her, just one time, on the last week-end of June 2011. I went to see her in her “home”, as a visiting nurse; she, being my patient. Her “home” was a plush Retirement residential facility for seniors, where she has been living comfortably for over 15 years. She is a soft-spoken, good-natured 96 years old lady.

My one hour visit was just a routine nurse-patient interaction. She was sitting on her recliner chair while we talk. After a while, she slowly stood up, walked towards the restroom with the aid of her walker; saying “No. I’m OK”, when I offered my assistance. I was so amazed by her self-determination to do things for herself.

Aside from checking her vital signs, asking questions relevant to her current condition, and scribbling notes in my small writing pad, there was no significant event that happened (or so I thought) during my visit. As I assured her that her medicines for comfort are available and will be given to her routinely and as needed, I said goodbye. She waved goodbye, and with a broad smile on her face, called out “thank you”.

Two weeks after my visit, I learned that she passed on, to meet her creator. It was also during this time that I learned more about her, through on-line postings on her website.

Who was she?

What was so special about this lady?

She was Ruth Silnes, Author and Artist. At 96 years old, her mind was still clear, with an ever innate drive to keep on learning. She started to write and illustrated her first book: “Keeping Ahead Of Winter 4100 Nautical Miles Inside America” when she was 70 years old, and published it when she was 88 years old. Two other books came after: “Naptime Secrets” and “You And The Arts”.

I was awed as I learned so many more about this extraordinary lady. To me, she was a true legend. An epitome of a person with a great mind that never stopped learning, a heart that never stopped loving, and  gifted hands that transformed something ordinary to extra special and beautiful.

Her remarkable life’s journey through the world of Arts and Writing will continue to live on, in the hearts of those whom she touched.

Thank You Ruth, for touching mine.

*Special thanks to Sandra Stone (Ruth’s daughter), for allowing me to post this article.



Against The Odds

Until my friend told me about this book “The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down”, I have never heard of the word “Hmong”. No offense intended and pardon my ignorance…but, at first, I thought “Hmong” (when it is just pronounced without looking at the spelling), is the short term for Mongoloid, a genetic chromosomal defect: Down’s Syndrome.

Out of curiosity, I was tempted to consult Mr. Google. This is a new discovery for me…and it is worth my time researching and learning about their cultural history. The Hmong are Asian ethnic group, particularly from the mountainous region of Laos, China, Thailand, and Vietnam. When they fled out of their homeland and were uprooted from their centuries-old culture, they tried to co-habit with the people living in the Western world. But until now, I still say that Hmong culture and religious belief is difficult to understand. It is hard to determine or perceive how much was caused by cultural barriers. It must have been arduous for them too, to adjust to and embrace the western culture, which is entirely different from what they know.

This particular book that I read, revolves around a Hmong patient and how medicine and medical care in the western world collide with the Hmong’s religious belief and culture.Contrary to what doctors learned in medical school, no doctor has been taught and prepared to practice cross-cultural medicine, especially in dealing with the Hmong.

As I was reading the book, I came across on some of the Hmong’s delemna…their personal opinion of doctors and other medical professionals. I could not help but think and ask myself: Is it really true and happening? Do we (including myself, being a nurse), treat people equally according to their need, and not being blinded and judgmental of who and what they are? Are we so stock-up with what we righteously think what is best for them? Do we disregard their own personal belief and feelings, that we push so hard to have them comply with the standards of medical practice?

There would still be so many unanswered questions; so many frustrations; so many anger; so many disappointments and misunderstandings, because when we attempt to reach out, we seem to stop dead on where we are, and it is a challenge to cross over the unknown barrier that distinctly identify Hmong culture from the rest of the world. I hope the younger generations who have successfully adopted the Western way of life will bridge this gap.

By nature, the Hmong are historically resistant to authority. When they feel that they are being stripped of their autonomous power, they either fight back, or retreat. Their resilience make them outwit whatever adversity that comes their way. They just want to be themselves. And, they deserve to be understood, accepted, and respected. Hmong might be different in so many ways, but they are human beings, just like you and I.

(Author’s Note: Some words or phrases included in this article was lifted from the book “The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down”.)


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