For so long, Systemic JIA or Stills Disease has been in the shadows that we can hardly believe that that there is now a movie about this disease. And its not a small-time documentary, it’s the summer’s sleeper box office hit! “The Big Sick” is a romantic-comedy in which Still’s Disease (the adult version of Systemic JIA) figures prominently. Actor Kumail Nanjiani (from the TV show “Silicon Valley”) co-wrote the movie with his now wife, Emily Gordon about their relationship. Nanjiani also stars in the film, with Zoe Kazan playing Emily.
The film focuses on the beginning of their relationship which is fraught with cultural differences. This ultimately leads them to break up. Shortly after, Gordon ends up in the hospital with a mysterious disease that has her doctors puzzled and her parents worried. Nanjiani is forced to sign documents that allow the doctors to put Gordon into a medically induced coma so they can get her infection under control.
The doctors ultimately discover Gordon has Adult Onset Still’s Disease (AOSD), the infection is controlled, and she is released from the hospital. To anyone suffering from SJIA or Still’s Disease, the diagnosis process if going to bring about a sense of déjà vu. The movie presents the disease in a pretty accurate manner thought we have heard some patients comment that how fast they get the disease under control (or find the right drugs) seems a bit unrealistic.
While Gordon is in the coma, some very big turning points come about for Nanjiani. Not only does he spend a lot of time getting to know her parents, he also realizes he wants to marry Gordon. The road back to a solid relationship is a bumpy one for the two of them, but — spoiler alert — they are married in real life so the rom-com has a happy ending.
The film has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and has received widespread critical acclaim. We know of many patient families who have laughed and cried through the movie. It’s also spurred conversations about chronic health issues and elevated interest in Still’s Disease / Systemic JIA.
If you are looking for a fun way to spend a evening, we highly recommend “The Big Sick,” currently playing in theaters nationwide.