Last year one of my uncle along with his family arrived back in country after more than ten years of his stay in Australia. So I went to my uncle’s place along with my father there I met my cousin Jane who was in her bed and was looking very sick. My uncle told us that she was suffering from jet lag due to long distance air travel. I asked details of this illness from my uncle and got to know that jet lag is a physiological illness as a result of variations in the body’s normal functions due to speedy long distance air travel from east to west and west to east. This illness is medically termed as desynchronosis. The condition of jet lag usually lasts for few days depending on travelled distance and requires adjustment to new time zone (Clewes. 1995). Jane was advised by doctor to get not only rest for few days but also to go for walks in the sunlight which will bring some energy to her normal body functions.
I sat near to Jane’s bed and asked her about the general symptoms she was having. She told me that she was feeling general fatigue, headache and disorientation. This illness of her was also caused by disturbance in her daily routine life, cramped space in the plane, dehydration due to dry air etc. which is termed as travel fatigue. The general opinion of doctors about Jane’s condition was that she should take rest to get well from travel fatigue and then try to take daytime walks to get exposed to daylight. My uncle and Jane asked me to stay with her so that I can not only take care of her but also support her psychologically. I remained with Jane for one week until she got fully recovered from travel fatigue and jet lag.
Jane remained in her bed mostly for the first day and did not move around much. She had to take admission in college right after her arrival but she delayed it for a week till she recovered fully. For the first day I helped her in taking her meals. She was looking very much sick on first day. I tried to talk to her and take her mind off her sickness but she was not feeling getting into talks so I remained silent. She asked me that she needs complete silence in the room and wants to take rest to get well from travel fatigue. I tried my best to provide a suitable ambience to her as a result of which she fell asleep within next five minutes. I lied in nearby bed so that if she wakes up during her sleep and needs anything then I will be available for her to take care of her issues. During first four hours of her sleep she slept peacefully but after that she woke up suddenly and told me that she is feeling nauseated and thinks that she might vomit. So I supported her to reach to washroom where she vomited and returned with sweating head and shivering hands. I helped her getting back in bed and I asked her how she was feeling. She replied that after vomiting she was feeling much better. My mother had told me that it is better to press with soft hands like message the head of a patient who has vomited. I followed my mother’s instructions and pressed the head of Jane like messaging it. Jane felt peaceful by that and thanked me for my support. She fell asleep again after next 10 minutes head message. I went to my bed once again hopping that she would get better after the message.
Apparently she looked peaceful and slept for 8 more hours. I woke up before her and brought breakfast for her right after she woke up. I asked her about her stay in Australia to which she replied in details and seemed to be recovered from travel fatigue. She talked to me frankly and felt better than last night. I asked her about whether she is feeling good to go out and have a walk in the nearby park. She agreed to the plan so we went to the park to have walk. During the walk she met another girl named Julie who was in the same flight from Australia. Jane asked the Julie about her condition after the travel and she told Jane that she was also suffering from same illness and now she was in the park for the walk to take sunlight as her doctor had advised. We walked together with the Julie in the park. Jane seemed to be relaxed after coming back from the park as she was aware of her condition in better way after meeting Julie with same conditions.
I took Jane to the park for next five more days during which we met the Julie daily and talked to her during the walks. These walks helped Jane to recover smoothly from her illness and especially the Julie played important role in getting Jane well. Jane felt comfortable with me but she felt an empathizing state of mind with the Julie. We all became good friends during the week as we were close together. Jane felt happy to have made two close friends in such short span of time after her arrival from Australia as she was missing her friends from Australia.
She was completely considered to have sick role as envisioned by Talcott Parsons. Talcott Parsons’ sick role theory is as following:
The individual falling sick is not only physically ill, but now observes to the precisely identified societal role of being sick. ‘Being Sick’ is not merely a state or condition but it has within itself rights and responsibilities which are based on the social customs that frame it. These rights and responsibilities are mentioned as below (Werner. 2009).
The sick person is exempted from general social roles
Jane was completely given this right by giving her bed rest for a day and taking walks till the time she got fully recovered. She was not even asked to clean her room and other home chores. I also supported her in taking meals. Before departing from Australia, she was supposed to take admission in college to start her studies but she was exempted from it due to her sickness. For the first day she was not even asked to get down to dining table to have her meals. She was served with her meals in her room which is completely in-line with the sick role as envisaged by Talcott Parsons.
The sick person is not responsible for his/her state (Werner. 2009)
She was not completely responsible for her state of jet lag and travel fatigue as she had to move from Australia along with her family. She could not have avoided the air travel as other means of travel require many days due to long distance. She was given complete rest and mind off from other things which clearly showed that she was not responsible for her illness. This whole situation clearly shows that Jane was given the rights of a sick person as envisaged by Talcott Parsons.
The sick person must put in his/her efforts to get well
Jane tried her best in by taking walks in the park and trying to get over the jet lag. She seemed to fulfill the first responsibility of sick people by putting her efforts in getting out of her bed and walk in the park. She also tried to get well through the medication she was provided by the doctor. Jane seemed to have strong intentions of getting well as soon as possible for which she not only took all the instructions form the medical staff but also put in her own efforts.
The sick person must pursue strictly skilled help and collaborate with the medical experts (Andrew, Twaddle. 1979)
Jane was not an adult person so she did not call the doctor but her father called the doctor and she cooperated. This fulfills this responsibility from her side. She also never refused to take any medicine as prescribed by the doctor. She also collaborated with me as I can be considered as her care taker in her condition.
Quentin Clewes. 1995. Jetlag. Marsilio Publishers.
Thomas Paul Werner. 2009. The Well Role Ideal Type Theory: A Companion to Parsons Sick Role Ideal Type in the Social System. ProQuest.
Andrew C. Twaddle. 1979. Sickness behavior and the sick role. The University of Michigan.