Sickness and Health: Finding Care In a Lonely Place

It will be exactly two years ago in September, which marks a memorable personal experience of  illness in all of my thirty-six years. It was just after an extremely busy time at work and a weekend full of playing some music gigs with my band. At first, it was just a scratchy throat and headache that was blamed on too much singing and seasonal allergies. However, it would soon turn into more than just a seasonal allergy attack. Consequently my phone malfunctioned and I was too sick to get it fixed and therefore I was cut off from all communication with my family who lived an hour and a half away and from my colleagues and work friends. The only way to contact the outside world was through a tablet in which I had my work email installed. My boss knew I was sick because I e-mailed her regarding my absence. But, I naively thought staying home a day would find me well enough to go back to work and get my phone fixed at the wireless store. I did not want to worry anyone or have anyone having to come and check on me. But things did not play out as I imagined and I did not want to admit that I was very sick.

Finally, a frantic phone call from my mother alerted my boss to come to my place and have me use her cell phone to call my family to come and take me to doctor where I was diagnosed with a severe case of bronchitis and a respiratory infection. It was a humbling moment for me to have my boss see me vulnerable and sick and to admit to my mother that her grown daughter needed her. Therefore, this personal experience offers a an interesting dialogue regarding the responsive communicative actions when it comes to health. A crucial point to remember is that “health communication performs a central role in the delivery of healthcare and the promotion of public health” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p 193). Also responsiveness is “the responsibility for doing the task of health care communication” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.196). Therefore, I received helpful communicative actions that enabled me to get the care I could not provide for myself. As Arnett, et. al, (2009) points out “health care communication ethics seeks to promote and protect care-care is the communicative action or practical which links to the good of responsiveness to the Other” (p.198).

When providing care in health care communications, its focus is on the “active, caring responsiveness to all stages of life, offering meaning through the doing of human assistance” and “it protects and promote care, human caring for one another, in a professional context and in all contexts where decisions affect the quality of life and, all too often, life itself”(Arnett, et, al, 2009, p. 198). In hindsight, I should have told my boss what was going on and ask her to contact my family to let them know what was going on. However, my stance on being self-sufficient and being half out of my mind with sickness caused me to not ask for that kind of help. After getting well, my friends and co-workers shamed me and I apologized to my family and I knew I would never do that again! When thinking about the giving and receiving, that context is not particularly complicated but when it comes to dialogic negotiation, that is where the complications arise. Arnett, et. al, (2009) states that “health care communication ethics must be negotiated again and again in friendships, in relationships with significant others, within particular institutions and cultures, all working together to try to figure out the “best” response in a given historical moment for a particular person or persons” (p. 205). But there is no hard and fast rule for health care communication that can provide the answer all the questions regarding the best course of action in providing care in different contexts. Recalling that period of time, I am very thankful that I found a caring response that renewed my faith and hope that I was not facing life alone like I believed I had to.


Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.




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