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Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire (edition 2012)

by Susannah Cahalan

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7215013,085 (4.01)35
Title:Brain on Fire
Authors:Susannah Cahalan
Info:Free Press (2012), Edition: 1, Kindle Edition, 290 pages
Collections:Your library, Four/Five stars
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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The medical field has make great leaps and bounds in it's knowledge to further the healthfulness and limit the pain caused to mankind. Yet, this memoir brings the fact front and center that there is still so much that is unknown about the human condition. Susannah Cahalan's lost month is a brave and blatant reminder that we are not immortal. A wonderful journalistic approach in attempting to chronicle the time and personality she lost and her eventual regain of health and rediscovery of self. ( )
  Sovranty | Feb 12, 2015 |
Clear-headed, straightforward but elegantly written, and full of gratefulness and humility. For someone so young Cahalan is remarkably good at understanding how much she owes to her parents, to her boyfriend, to her doctors, to her luck. She doesn't even hold a grudge to those who initially misdiagnosed her rare encephalitis as alcoholism, schizophrenia, or anxiety. There is no hint of self-indulgence or self-absorption in this memoir--instead there is a good deal of caring about what happens to others--including those with the same disease who mysteriously don't recover even when given the same treatment that cured Cahalan, those who are misdiagnosed and don't have loving family members there to catch doctors' mistakes, and those who aren't able to access the first-class, extraordinarily expensive medical help that she received. I'm very happy to have read this book, if only for the way it has left me with a better sense of how fragile we all are, and how much in need of one another's compassion. ( )
  poingu | Jan 29, 2015 |
This book absolutely fascinated me.

At first, I was actually afraid to read it. Our older daughter has struggled with lots of health problems since 10/13.It's been a struggle to get her the help she needs. I was afraid to see parts of her story in Sussannah's story.

I do wonder if Marlo has an auto-immune disorder that is steering her health.

Susannah's story is scary. Fortunately, though, she was surrounded by people who cared and who recognized when things were not normal. They took care of her and fought for medical intervention. It is scary that some people have experienced the same thing but with very different outcomes. It is a story of hope because new information is being gathered all the time so that people who are afflicted in the future may get the help they need as soon as they need it. ( )
  BoundTogetherForGood | Jan 24, 2015 |
In 2009, Susannah Cahalan had a rich and rewarding life, working as a respected reporter for The New York Post, living on her own in an apartment in Manhattan, and sharing her life with her handsome musician boyfriend. She was young, beautiful, and grew up in privilege and good health. One day she noticed two marks which appeared to be bedbug bites on one of her arms, and shortly afterward she experienced muscle weakness and headache, which she attributed to the flu. She then developed tingling and numbness in her left arm and foot, which led her to seek medical attention from her gynecologist, who referred her to a neurologist. Laboratory and radiographic tests were all normal, and she concluded that she had a bad viral illness, which was complicated by overwork. However her symptoms progressively worsened, as she developed anxiety, dizziness, nausea and memory loss, and after she had a seizure at her boyfriend's home it was clear that something was seriously wrong with her.

The next month for Susannah was a living hell, as she became manic and paranoiac, continued to have seizures, and went into a rapid physical and mental decline. She was hospitalized and watched closely by her parents and boyfriend, but her medical team could not figure out what was wrong with her, as all of her tests came back normal. Her loved ones became frantic as she continued to worsen, as they feared that the bright and brilliant Susannah that they knew and loved would never recover. Her neurologist that they had come to trust and respect turned her care over to a respected diagnostician, after he failed to discover what was wrong with her, and dismissed her and her family abruptly and brusquely. Her life then became a race against time: would the medical team diagnose this strange illness before it was too late to help Susannah?

Brain on Fire is narrated in the first person, based on Susannah's own recollections and those which came from her family, boyfriend, medical staff and colleagues during the month in which she experienced the worst of her nightmarish symptoms. She uses her journalistic skills to create a compelling medical mystery, which I could hardly put down until the last page. In addition to a fascinating story it is also a wake up call to physicians who are quick to label or dismiss patients' symptoms that they cannot adequately explain, and a reminder that a good medical history, a perusal of the medical literature, a curious and inquisitive mind, and a willingness to seek help from colleagues for the most difficult cases will often uncover the right answer. ( )
7 vote kidzdoc | Oct 19, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
"..a fascinating and compelling story told in a smart, succinct style.."
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Maybe it all began with a bug bite, from a bedbug that didn't exist.
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

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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