'The Big Sick' Star Kumail Nanjiani Opens Up About Wife Emily V. Gordon's Illness In Touching Series Of Tweets

"I think sometimes people feel shame for having a disease or condition."

Last year, standup comedian and actor Kumail Nanjiani and his wife, writer Emily V. Gordon, saw their real-life love story come alive on the silver screen to wide acclaim. The Big Sick was co-written by the couple and Nanjiani starred as himself in the romantic comedy.  

Recently, Nanjiani opened up about the events that inspired the film in a series of touching tweets. After dating for several months, Gordon became extremely ill in the hospital, where doctors struggled to diagnose her. They placed her in a medically induced coma and continued to try to figure out what was wrong. 


Earlier this week, Gordon's mother found the hospital visitor's badge that Nanjiani gave to her with his number on it on the first day she got to the hospital to be with her daughter. On Twitter, Nanjiani explained how seeing the badge all these years later affected him.

"Emily's mom just found this. I'd given her my phone number when she first came to the hospital when Emily got sick in case she needed to contact me. Wrote it on the back of the visitor badge," he wrote. "She still has it. Certain objects have the power to pull you back. Wow." 

He hadn't seen the badge in 10 years, likely since the day he gave it to her. "Looking at it, I got pulled right back into that moment. And the strongest feeling I felt was this kind of fearful floating. Emily's condition & disease at that point felt so big & unknowable," he tweeted. 

Nanjiani continued by detailing what it was like for him to not know what was wrong with her. 

"The extreme fear & not knowing & the vagueness of it all created a bubble. And you just kinda float around in this bubble. Everything you see is through this bubble. I remember going to Walgreens & getting angry at someone just buying gum. Why do you get to live a normal life?" he wrote. "And you expend so much energy to not think about the one thing that's unthinkable. So much of your entire being is spent trying to not think of the worst case scenario. And every day was a new theory on what it was."

During difficult situations, certain sounds or smells can stick with you and bring back painful memories. For Nanjiani, it was the sound of Super Mario collecting coins. He played the game while sitting in the hospital waiting room for days wishing that the doctors would figure out what was wrong with Gordon and hoping she'd pull through. 

"I remember thinking how unfair it was," he wrote. "Emily is always so full of life & fills a room with her energy & seeing her like that felt vulgar."

The days Gordon spent in a coma are still the longest the couple has ever gone without speaking since the day they met. 

"Her disease felt so unknowable & now it's this thing we know. We still deal with it, but it has a name & that is so important for us," he wrote on Twitter. "I'm proud of her for being open about it & for sharing her story with people. I think sometimes people feel shame for having a disease or condition. But they shouldn't. It's not your fault. She's dealt with it by talking to ppl about it, & ppl have talked to her about theirs." 

Gordon was eventually diagnosed with adult-onset Still's disease, a rare type of inflammatory arthritis which can cause high fevers, rashes, and chronic pain and inflammation in joints and muscles. The condition can lead to organ damage The cause of the disease is unknown, but there are treatments. 

"Basically, your organs can start getting inflamed as if they're under attack and have an infection, but they're not," Gordon told The Hollywood Reporter last June. "Because I wasn't diagnosed or being treated for it, it just kept getting worse and worse. My organs kept getting more and more inflamed until I had to be hospitalized."

Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com

Nanjiani ended his Twitter thread by saying he's proud of Gordon for fighting so hard and being so strong

"Her condition is part of her, but it's not all of her. It doesn't define her. But it's something we'll deal with for the rest of our lives. And that's ok," he wrote

Many people responded to the tweets to share what reading about his experience meant to them. By sharing his experience, Nanjiani helped to remind people that they're not alone and that there is hope.  

Cover image via Featureflash Photo Agency / Shutterstock.com


Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.