Medical School Student and Nurse Draws Upon Her Experience with Multiple Sclerosis to Help Patients
Jamila Kendall of Mableton, Ga., hopes to specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
Six years ago, Capt. Jamila Kendall, now 32, was serving as a U.S. Army nurse in Germany when a spinal tap confirmed she had multiple sclerosis (MS). Jamila had experienced sporadic symptoms for nearly five years, mostly gastrointestinal problems and occasional numbness, but doctors couldn’t locate a root cause.
“I got backlash about being a woman who can’t handle some pain,” Jamila says. “The tests weren’t showing anything.”
In Germany, though, one of Jamila’s legs began dragging, and half her body went numb for a time. She remembers washing her hands, and her left hand would feel lukewarm water while her right would feel the heat of pins and needles. For Jamila, the MS diagnosis was a relief and a new beginning.
After retiring from the Army with a medical discharge, she began seeing Sherrill Loring, M.D., at the Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center. The right medication helped to control Jamila’s symptoms. She began working again and even spent a year seeing Shepherd Center from a different perspective – as a nurse at Shepherd Pathways, Shepherd Center’s outpatient rehabilitation program for people recovering from brain injury. Now, Jamila is beginning her third year of medical school at Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine. She hopes to eventually specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation.
“I think going through MS as a patient is going to make me a better doctor,” Jamila says. “I can ask questions of my patients that they may not be thinking about and help fine-tune things for them that I know from personal experience.”
For now, Jamila’s husband, Leon, and her mother form her own support system. Jamila forces herself to exercise, gets as much sleep as possible and listens closely to what her body is telling her.
“MS is an ever-changing disease,” Jamila says. “It’s like a fingerprint. Everybody’s is unique. As things in your life change, your MS changes, too. It’s not going to look or feel the same all the time. That’s important to know so that you can continue to adjust and adapt – and so that you don’t feel like you’re going crazy!”
By Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 743 inpatients, 277 day program patients and more than 7,161 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.