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Brain on Fire

My Month of Madness

Cahalan, Susannah

(Book - 2012)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Brain on Fire
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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. 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 swift narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her inexplicable descent into madness nad the brilliant, 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, at the last minute, celebrated 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. Far more than simply a riveting read and a crackling medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her identity adn 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.
Publisher: New York : Free Press, 2012
Edition: 1st Free Press hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781451621372
145162137X
9781451621396
1451621396
Branch Call Number: 616.832 C
Characteristics: xii, 264 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

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From Library Staff

Comment by: NYPLRecommends Sep 04, 2014

"Susanah Calahan is a woman to seems to have it all. A good job, great boyfriend, supportive family and friends. But constant headaches, memory lapses that seem mundane worsen, leading to convulsions, momentary dementia and eventual psychosis.

What will it take to find out what's wrong..... Read More »

Comment by: BCD2013 Jun 13, 2014

NYPL Staff Pick
A young New York Post reporter struggles for a month with a rare autoimmune disease that attacks her brain.
- Selection Team

Nonfiction: A young New York Post reporter struggles for a month with a rare autoimmune disease that attacks her brain.

June 5th. In this illustrated lecture the author chronicles the swift path of her illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by Dr. Souhel Najjar at NYU Langone Medical Center. Doctor and patient will join the stage for the first time together to share the story of “Brain on Fire.”


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Oct 07, 2014
  • renea70 rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Her ordeal was very scary and the book started strong but then it just kind of dragged on in certain area's for me so I ended up skimming thru a lot of it.

"Susanah Calahan is a woman to seems to have it all. A good job, great boyfriend, supportive family and friends. But constant headaches, memory lapses that seem mundane worsen, leading to convulsions, momentary dementia and eventual psychosis.

What will it take to find out what's wrong...and will it be done in time before she finds herself institutionalized forever? "
- Susanah Calahan, George Bruce

NYPL Staff Pick
A young New York Post reporter struggles for a month with a rare autoimmune disease that attacks her brain.
- Selection Team

Jun 13, 2014
  • dairyqueen rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Hard to put down!

Mar 17, 2014
  • sharus rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A terrifying look into this woman's month of madness. A must read that will leave a long lasting impression on readers. Watching some of Susannah Cahalan's videos on you tube will give readers another shocking look into what this woman went through.

Dec 10, 2013
  • Keyaans rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

This is a very interesting read. The author’s excellent writing skills make the story easy to understand. It also shows that we can come over anything as longs as we and the people around us, believe in us.
I would recommend it to anyone.

Sep 30, 2013
  • writermala rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

This is the story of the writer's battle with a mysterious illness. Susannah's "weirdness" starts with an innocuous fear of having been bitten by bedbugs to a month long stay in hospital with increasingly major symptoms which defy diagnosis. An illness which costs a million dollars to treat, Susannah is one of the lucky ones. Read about the month long battle with the author, her family, and doctors each treating the illness differently. Will Susannah be back to her old self, or is that gone and lost forever? You'll only know if you read this gripping memoir.

Sep 29, 2013
  • pattyloucor67 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent story of a young woman whose brain infection nearly destroys who she is. I was mesmerized by the quick, downhill spiral her life took. The diagnosis was difficult to achieve. Had it not be for a few perceptive and well-read doctors, Susannah might have spent her life in a mental institution. The brain is a fascinating organ, and infections running rampant can cause a myriad of bizarre, almost possessed, behaviors. The book is well written, sometimes a little overly technical for the layman, but very insightful and engrossing.

Aug 21, 2013
  • smichal rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

A whole lot of blabbing which could be summarized by describing the symptoms and then the proper diagnosis and recovery. Most of this book was descriptions of conversations with doctors, play-by-play of videos recorded in the hospital, medical tests, etc. It was kind of spooky at the beginning (symptoms of a mental disorder) but became boring and stayed boring. Would only recommend this book to those suffering from this rare medical condition. Listening to people complain about their health problems is very draining and boring.

Aug 10, 2013
  • tnorris rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

It is an interesting read, though repetitious.

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