Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire

My Month of Madness

eBook - 2012
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One day in 2009, twenty-four-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. A wristband marked her as a "flight risk," and her medical records, chronicling a monthlong hospital stay of which she had no memory at all, showed hallucinations, violence, and dangerous instability. Only weeks earlier, Susannah had been on the threshold of a new, adult life, a healthy, ambitious college grad a few months into her first serious relationship and a promising career as a cub reporter at a major New York newspaper. Who was the stranger who had taken over her body? What was happening to her mind? In this narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. A team of doctors would spend a month, and more than a million dollars, trying desperately to pin down a medical explanation for what had gone wrong. Meanwhile, as the days passed and her family, boyfriend, and friends helplessly stood watch by her bed, she began to move inexorably through psychosis into catatonia and, ultimately, toward death. Yet even as this period nearly tore her family apart, it offered an extraordinary testament to their faith in Susannah and their refusal to let her go. Then, neurologist Souhel Najjar joined her team and, with he help of a lucky, ingenious test, saved her life. He recognized the symptoms of a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks th brain, a disease now thought to be tied to both schizophrenia and autism, and perhaps the root of "demonic possessions" throughout history. This story is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her identity and to rediscover herself among the fragments left behind. Using all her considerable journalistic skills, and building from hospital records and surveillance video, interviews with family and friends, and excerpts from the deeply moving journal her father kept during her illness, Susannah pieces together the story of her "lost month" to write an unforgettable memoir about memory and identity, faith and love.
The story of twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan and the life-saving discovery of the autoimmune disorder that nearly killed her -- and that could perhaps be the root of "demonic possessions" throughout history.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2012
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781451621396
Characteristics: 1 online resource (xii, 264 pages) : illustrations


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AL_HOLLYR Sep 19, 2017

A gripping, frightening medical mystery. Fast-paced and well-written memoir.

AL_KATI Sep 18, 2017

Wow! I was completely sucked in. Can you imagine having your whole future in front of you and then being struck down by a scary mystery illness that barely had a name? If you like medical history and memoirs, pick this up. You won't be disappointed.

samcmar May 25, 2017

I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but this is such an intense look at someone with a rare illness and how they essentially lost a month of their life with no recollection of what happened. I found myself completely glued to this book, and even when the author got very technical about her disease, it never felt overwhelming , and I found I understood what was going on. A great read!

Apr 30, 2017

The author describes her months long experience with an undiagnosed brain disease. It appeared first as inexplicable quirks, then proceeded rapidly to psychosis. Doctors thought she partied too hard, was under too much stress from her job at the NY Post, had epilepsy, was psychotic, etc., etc. In short, they just didn't know. Her live-in boyfriend was steadfast. Her mother and father, estranged from each other, were too. All of her doctors were mystified. Finally, a new doctor asked her to draw a picture of a clock. She drew all the numbers on the right hand side of the circle, giving him a clue about the disease in her brain. Her recovery was as traumatic, though not as dramatic, as her disease. The book was interesting because her experience was so weird, and her recounting of it was competent. It was not, however, uplifting, insightful, or poetic.

Dec 10, 2016

This book was such a page turner. All of a sudden, writer Cahalan starts to go crazy. She seems paranoid, wild and unpredictable and ends up in the hospital. Although it seems apparent that she should go to a psychiatric ward, she and her family are insistent that she stays in medical. What happens is fascinating and the implications so interesting for neuroscience and others who have been condemned to mental institutions.

Chapel_Hill_KatieJ Nov 13, 2016

New York Post reporter Susannah Cahalan suddenly starts experiencing an array of frightening symptoms that confounds doctors. She has seizures, extreme light sensitivity, anger, a total change in personality, hallucinations, and memory loss. Eventually she pieces together her lost month of hospitalization where she remembers nothing. The book is fascinating as readers, like her original doctors, have no idea what is going on. Her parents and boyfriend are baffled and devastated by her sudden turn for the worst, but always believe that the real Susannah is still in there somewhere.

Jul 27, 2016

A tight line between frightening and fascinating, Cahalan's story provides a intricately detailed account of a mind going, going gone into insanity and emerging back out. It's terrifying to travel this journey with her. Lot's of pause for thought: What triggers brain dysfunction? How much can we count on the medical profession to accurately diagnose? Anyone interested in neuroscience should read this book.

Jul 07, 2016

Very interesting.
The author seemed to have difficulty with ending the book. The last couple of chapters seemed drawn out. But otherwise, a good read.

Feb 06, 2016

A startling account of someone's experience with the truly unknown; a perplexing and inexplicable illness that takes away your sanity. It makes me wonder how many people are walking around with some form of this disease! Educational and eye-opening, I realized that the positive outcome of Ms. Cahalan's story was based entirely on her fortunate status as the daughter of wealthy, loving parents, a committed and caring boyfriend, access to top-notch healthcare and all-round good friends and extended family (as Ms. Cahalan points out in the book). What happens to the rest who aren't as lucky? Thankfully, with the publication of this book, recognition of the symptoms of the disease and correctly diagnosing it will save someone else's life, regardless of social status.

Uyc Feb 04, 2016

Brilliant story that really illustrates how disjointed a mind can become and the effects on one's personality. The fact that she was able to pull out so many lost memories from family and close friends, as well as her time in the hospital made for an interesting read. It was not able to continuously hold me rapt though and it feels like it drags a bit near the end.

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May 12, 2015

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Aug 11, 2016

A young reporter named Susannah Cahalan begins to have strange medical issues like seizures, mood swings and suicide attempts. The doctors think she has no hope. If it wasn't for her family and her boyfriend, she would have been put in a mental asylum.


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