Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

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

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.