Nova Southeastern University is home to a leading research practice for chronic fatigue syndrome. The condition’s full name is myalgic encephalomyelitis, but it’s abbreviated to ME/CFS. The chronic immune illness causes brain and muscle inflammation.
Dr. Nancy Klimas heads that research. She chairs the Department of Clinical Immunology at NSU, and teaches in the College of Osteopathic Medicine. She also works with the Miami VA system on Gulf War Illness.
We spoke with Dr. Klimas before she gave a talk on Saturday in Davie after a screening of a documentary called ‘Unrest.’ It follows the lives and struggles of one of her patients and others.
WLRN: The average person who thinks chronic fatigue syndrome’, what are the symptoms?
Klimas: So the symptoms are one of profound fatigue, a fatigue and body pain that’s made much much worse by overexerting. And overexertion can be a very short walk down the driveway or going grocery shopping.
This is something that a lot of doctors just write off or prescribe sleep aids for. Why are you trying to find a cure?
You know, in this documentary there’s a scene where I’m talking - and I’m talking about my first patient. And that really is what hooked me up. This patient came in, she had all the symptoms, she’s totally miserable. She had been to a lot of different doctors, and every doctor had said there was nothing wrong with her.
And we have a research laboratory, so we can look in a much deeper way. We did the whole nine yards. We looked at every immune function we knew, and I came back to this patient and I said, ‘You know, I’m sorry, I found an awful lot wrong with your immune system. This is like, a serious problem.’ And she burst into tears. And I was shattered, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I really handled that badly. I should have done something better.’
But they were tears of joy. She was so happy that someone had actually found something, that this was real.
Dr. Klimas and her team will begin some trials at NSU in the coming months. And the documentary ‘Unrest’ will air on PBS in January 2018.