on the shelf: brain on fire



Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
ISBN-13: 9781451621372

Synopsis: "A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.
One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier she had been a healthy, ambitious twenty-four year old, six months into her first serious relationship and a sparkling career as a cub reporter.
Susannah’s astonishing memoir chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving her life. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.
With sharp reporting drawn from hospital records, scientific research, and interviews with doctors and family, Brain on Fire is a crackling mystery and an unflinching, gripping personal story that marks the debut of an extraordinary writer."
Review: I was hooked from the very beginning. If a book can snag me, it will only take about two or three days for me to finish such was the case with this book. Despite working full time, I managed to finish within two days. I have become a pokey reader so that is a great feat.
The story moves rapidly and, in my opinion, the subject is so fascinating that it makes for a quick read. It's like an episode of the show Mystery Diagnosis in book form. Susannah Cahalan is rapidly changing from your typical twenty-something into someone who seems to have a psychological disorder. During her most blacked out state in which she has no memory, her family comes to her rescue.Not only do they rotate shifts so Susannah is never alone, they never give up. A lot of the doctors say they consulted seemed to want to just write her off as someone who has shown signs of a psychological disorder. Her family was not so willing to accept that answer.
Their determination in not giving up on Susannah proved to be detrimental to her recovery. After many different doctors were consulted, in was one neurologist who took a chance and tested for a rare, recently discovered auto-immune disease. Once she was diagnosed properly, Susannah could begin her healing process. That included going over the lost month that she has no memory of, which was recorded on video by the seizure ward she was in and her father's journal he kept to deal with the difficulties that their family was going through.
She reflects on how her solid, familial support system helped her through this difficult time. She also is concerned for the hundreds of people out there with her debilitating disease that have been misdiagnosed as schizophrenics. What about those unlucky people?
A great, fast-paced read with very little medical jargon. Probably not for hypochondriacs.

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