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Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
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Brain on Fire (edition 2012)

by Susannah Cahalan

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504None20,167 (4.03)6
Member:Suzanne.speterson
Title:Brain on Fire
Authors:Susannah Cahalan
Info:Free Press (2012), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Collections:Your library, Four/Five stars
Rating:*****
Tags:Brain disease, Encephalitis, Medicine, Mental illness, New York Post, Memoir, Hospitals, Doctors, Neurology, Nonfiction

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
It took me forever to read this book...not because it was poorly written, but because it was such an overcoming experience that I could barely read more than a few pages at a time before feeling exhausted. The author vividly depicted this devastating illness that consumed her body, and as a reader, I was able to acquire a real sense of the despair that she must have felt, as doctors and family sought to find a treatment for her illness. This nonfiction book was a riveting read, but not one that I'd recommend to be read at the end of a long, exhausting day. As I read this interesting story, I was reminded of how advances in science and medicine might occur presently, and how those advances can change the medical outcomes and lives of patients seeking treatment. ( )
  haymaai | Mar 30, 2014 |
Loved it!!! What an amazing story. Susannah was lucky to have family who cared and fought for her. Things could have turned out so differently for her. So well done!! READ IT! ( )
  LASMIT | Mar 14, 2014 |
I cannot figure out why it is so difficult for me to write reviews for books I am passionate about, or which I loved! In looking back at the books I've read on goodreads.com, I realized that almost all of the highest rated books on my shelves have 2 sentence reviews, if any. I guess that's why it's taken a month to figure out what exactly I want to say about Brain on Fire, a medical memoir by journalist Susannah Cahalan.

Where do I begin?! Cahalan develops a mysterious illness over the course of 2 months, which leads to an extended stay in NYU's Epileptic ward. Exhibiting symptoms of extreme psychosis and catatonia, her family and close friends' loyalty is put to the test as they seek answers and a cure for Cahalan's rapidly escalating condition.

One aspect of this book that I think is unique is that at the height of her illness, Cahalan loses her memory, and as a result has no recollection of her experiences, including her recovery. As a journalist, she pieces together the events leading up to her illness and it's aftermath by interviewing her family, friends, and doctors. NYU's research environment also provided much material by way of extensive notes and videos.

It's hard not to have affection for Susannah. I wish I could meet her. I so appreciate her sharing her story, especially when by doing so she exposed a side of herself that was not flattering. She writes:
“We are, in the end, a sum of our parts, and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.” How true that is! Especially is this the case when either our or a loved one's body is ravaged by a disease. The "real person" is still there, but it can get so muddled up, and be so discouraging to witness.

I also appreciated the attention she drew to finding a diagnosis. I would have never believed how hard it is to "get well" unless I'd seen it with my own eyes. I am not sure if as a whole, society is desensitized to death, or if our view on life expectancy and the quality of life has diminished. At any rate, it seems as though doctors today don't think twice about sending you home to die, or suffer through whatever ailment you have. You have to fight for answers, persistently ask for a second opinion, and have darn good medical insurance coverage. What about those that fall through the cracks of that system? Cahalan happened to be at the right place, at the right time. So many others with her condition were misdiagnosed, and essentially sent home to die. It's disconcerting, but I am sure it happens so much on a daily basis.

If you're interested in reading this book, it's on sale for Kindle readers for $2.99 for the month of April. I was so entranced, I think I read it in 24 hours. I also felt the need to talk about it every chance I got! It's a great read. Check out her interview if I've piqued your interest. Until we meet again, happy reading! ( )
1 vote dreamydress48 | Mar 11, 2014 |
Young New York Post reporter goes on a crusade to educate the world about her illness so people are not consigned to death in a mental institution and so this rare but treatable illness is given some exposure to educate the medical community.

The truth is we do not know what causes madness and this is one example of a treatable illness that looks like a mental disorder. Perhaps someday we will find they are all caused by a treatable condition. Who knows.

After the fact she has to listen to how she acted when she was "mad" and she describes the whats, who, hows and sometimes whys with admirable bravery. Ms Cahalan makes her parents, some of her care takers, and her boyfriend the heros of the piece and i am sure this is true. She describes her inability to help herself in this situation. And as a person who deals with mental illnesses of all sorts i appreciate her candor. I know how helpless i am when i my illness is active.

Ms Cahalan also knows how to write and it is delightful that she, of all people, can and does tell this story even as I regret that she had to experience such a serious and life changing illness.

I thank her. ( )
  newnoz | Mar 3, 2014 |
I give this one 3.5 stars because some parts were mired in medical jargon. Glad she had a good outcome. ( )
  jules72653 | Mar 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
"..a fascinating and compelling story told in a smart, succinct style.."
 
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Dedicated to those without a diagnosis
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Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn't exist.
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I have felt that odd whirr of wings in the head. - Virginia Woolf, A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf
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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.

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Penguin Australia

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