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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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1,152807,093 (3.97)51
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 80 (next | show all)
Riveting is defined as: "completely engrossing; compelling." This is a near-perfect description of Brain on Fire. I actually bought it for my son who is graduating soon with a degree in Neuroscience, but once I started reading it I found I couldn't stop. In two days I devoured it. It is at once fascinating and frightening. Several years ago I fell 18 feet from a ladder and could easily have died or been permanently disabled, and have remarked since then my amazement at how fragile and yet how durable our bodies are. This book delivers that message in spades.
It is also a powerful insight into, and indictment of, physicians and a medical system that place more value on a quick and facile diagnosis than on the correct diagnosis. Her life was saved by the ability to "think" by one physician out of approximately 20 who reviewed her case. Without his ability to look at a bigger picture she would likely have died, or been permanently assigned to a psychiatric hospital.
Weaving together personal anecdotes with scientific explanations of what was happening in her brain, Ms. Cahalan keeps you nailed to your seat, riveted, wanting to read one more sentence, one more paragraph, one more chapter, until the evening has long gone, and you still can't go to sleep until you know how this gets resolved. Even after the resolution her journalistic skills in conducting autopsies of events makes you continue to want to know more.
This books brings out a range of emotions, and you ride them like the schizophrenic roller-coaster she describes of her behaviors, and her symptoms; no sooner do you hit the bottom of one hill then you find yourself propelled toward a higher, and even more terrorizing one.
If you are looking for a book that will completely capture your attention, and keep you riveted, this is it. Be forewarned - you will have a hard time getting up once you sit down and start reading. ( )
  bjtimm | Nov 8, 2016 |
(42) This was really interesting and a quick read for me. Caught my eye in Target of all places. A memoir is typically a genre I loathe but the medical mystery subject matter was intriguing and in fact I was unable to place the disease as I read along. Susannah Cahalan is a young reporter from the NY Post who seems to have a psychotic break. A sad case of schizophrenia with the exception of seizures and and weird movements that ultimately leads to suspicion of a rare neurologic disorder. Susannah has no memory of her 'month of madness' but writes the memoir as a journalist, relying on interviews, diaries, and videos of herself and people close to her during her hospitalization.

The writing was a bit frenetic, better at the beginning than during her recovery. The recovery part dragged on and the immediacy and dramatic tension of the narrative being over, one just wanted the whole thing to wrap up. But really, that is a small criticism - it overall was very compelling and put the intricacies of neurology including micrographs of her brain biopsy into layman's terms with a certain degree of artistry.

From my doctor's perspective I thought for sure she had Mad Cow disease which I have only read about but never seen and as a gynecologist, I actually learned something new that this condition has been associated with ovarian teratomas. A quick entertaining and intriguing read. I am so glad she is OK, and I truly empathized with her. I think those who like Lisa Genova's 'Still Alice,' and 'Left Neglect' will ilke this. ( )
  jhowell | Oct 29, 2016 |
I received a copy to facilitate my review. The Opinions expressed here are my own.

Imagine you are a successful reporter in New York City and that you are only 24 when suddenly you know something is wrong. You are having several physical issues and mental issues and no one seems to be able to correctly tell you what is happening. This is what happened to Susannah Cahalan. She had an inflammation of her brain, yet was misdiagnosed many times. People start to believe with her symptoms that she has an alcohol problem, or is schizophrenic. Her dad is the one person who stands behind her and believes there is something physically, not mentally wrong with her. She finally finds a doctor who does one simple test and proves her condition is physical. It is confirmed by another doctor and true treatment begins. It is scary to find out there are so many auto-immune diseases out there that go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. How many people are institutionalized because of this type of situation? Susannah was one of the lucky ones because she had such a strong support system and they were determined to find the cause. This was both a scary and uplifting book as we find hope in doctors like hers. ( )
  skstiles612 | Aug 28, 2016 |
Fascinating. The writing was very good and the retelling of Cahalan's nightmarish medical mystery intriguing- right up until she found out what she had. After that point, I felt like the story of her recovery and attempt to recreate the memories of that lost time period in her life were only half done- the ending seemed rushed. Overall a very good book and I would definitely recommend. ( )
  Maureen_McCombs | Aug 19, 2016 |
The author was stricken with a mysterious auto-immune illness that attacked her brain. Though she has very little recollection of the time that she was severely ill, she has used her skills as a journalist to recreate this period of her life. Reading about her descent into an illness that a lot of people thought was a mental disorder is both horrible and fascinating. It's like when you see an accident and cannot look away. Readers can't help but think "what if this happened to me". Reading about how a diagnosis and cure were eventually found was equally fascinating, however once she was back to normal the rest of the book describing the insights she gained and her life since then fell a bit flat for me.
Our book club had a reasonably good discussion on this. I was afraid there might not be much to talk about beyond "what would you do in this kind of situation" and the messed up state of our health care system, but we found enough to discuss for an hour or so. ( )
  debs4jc | Aug 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 80 (next | show all)
"..a fascinating and compelling story told in a smart, succinct style.."
 
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Epigraph
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
Dedication
Dedicated to those without a diagnosis
First words
Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn't exist.
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If all I can remember are hallucinations, how can I rely on my own mind?
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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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