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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness | [Susannah Cahalan]

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported 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
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Publisher's Summary

In 2009, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room strapped to a bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records - from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory - reported 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. Weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia. Over one million dollars worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, until the celebrated neurologist, Dr. Souhel Najjar, joined her team. With the use of a simple - yet ingenious - test, he was able to make a lifesaving diagnosis - revealing a newly discovered autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks the brain.

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.

©2012 Original material © 2012 Susannah Cahalan. Recorded by arrangement with Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. (P)2012 (p) 2012 HighBridge Company

What the Critics Say

"Engrossing.... Unquestionably, an important book on both a human and a medical level. Cahalan’s elegantly-written memoir of her dramatic descent into madness opens up discussion of the cutting-edge neuroscience behind a disease that may affect thousands of people around the world, and it offers powerful insight into the subjective workings of our minds." (Mehmet Oz, MD, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Surgery, New York Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center)

"Brain on Fire reads like a scientific thriller, but with a profound and moving philosophy at its heart." (David B. Agus, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Engineering, University of Southern California, and author of The End of Illness)

What Members Say

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  •  
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 09-11-14
    Pamela Dale Foster Sykesville, MD 09-11-14 Member Since 2010

    I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Difficult Diagnosis"

    Susannah Cahalan worked as a newspaper reporter who had been experiencing symptoms that mimicked mental illness. She was in the midst of a psychotic episode. Susannah was paranoid, delusional, hearing voices, having hallucinations and thinking that people were talking about her. She had no prelude to this illness. Susannah woke up one morning and out of no where, exhibited highly irrational behavior. Her biggest fear was that she would be placed in a nursing home or even worse, a psychiatric facility.

    Susannah would have combative episodes and awoke to find herself strapped to a bed unable to move or speak and most alarming, she was being watched by a guard. She realized that she was in a hospital but had no memory why.

    Susannah would go in and out of these symptoms without any recollection of the events. Susannah, friends, boyfriend of only 3 months, and family were, at this time, quite distraught. Susannah was given anti-pyschotic medications to try and help her to remain stable. Her personality before had been vibrant, very social, her working skills were excellent and she had been living in an apartment in New York City on her own. However, when the illness reached its apex, Susannah became angry, avoided people and friends, could no longer concentrate, had to leave her job and move in with her mother and step-father. Her mother realized that Susannah needed to be hospialtlized.

    There were many doctors who attempted to help Susannah. To everyone's dismay each doctor would discontinue seeing her and send another doctor to evaluate Susannah, hoping to find the correct diagnosis. It became apparent the doctor's zeroed in or her psychotic episodes and concluded that Susannah needed psychiatric intervention.

    Miraculously, it seemed, after spending 30 days in a hospital, with no definite diagnosis, there was a doctor who had knowledge of why Susannah's brain was, "on fire." The doctor performed more testing and the PET scan, which illuminated the brain with such clarity, showed that Susannah had fluid on her brain.

    There are at least 100 autoimmune diseases and Susannah also had an autoimmune disease that had only recently been discovered. Unlike other autoimmune diseases, Susannah could possibly have a complete reversal or at least 90%. Luckily, Susannah received treatment before any severe damage had occurred to her brain.

    Susannah left the hospital and had out patient treatments for the IV medication termed, IVG. Her other medications could be taken at home.

    Susannah wrote her memoir to tell reader's about her struggles and how she survived. The book was well written and proved to be a great listen. Heather Henson did an excellent job of narration. She did the voices well and emulated the emotions of all the character's with recognition and feeling. I would recommend to other's to purchase this book.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dawn E. Sanders Kansas City, MO United States 04-24-14
    Dawn E. Sanders Kansas City, MO United States 04-24-14 Member Since 2012

    Dawn

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    "File This One Under 'Crazy Medical Conditions'"
    Would you listen to Brain on Fire again? Why?

    No, I think one time is good. I mean, it's a good story and all . . .


    What other book might you compare Brain on Fire to and why?

    That one memoir by the fourteen-year old boy who set himself on fire and recovered in the burn unit of the hospital. Do you know that one? "The Burn Journals" by Brent Runyon. Both memoirs are interesting descriptions of going through a terrible medical ordeal in a hospital, and they're both really good.


    Any additional comments?

    The author is able to piece together amazing details and tells the story in a compelling way. The whole time, I was thinking, "What? That's crazy!" And then when I found out the diagnosis, I was all, "What? That's crazy!" The brain is a fascinating and mysterious organ, I tell you.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-12-14
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 04-12-14 Member Since 2012

    i like to read. i like to listen.

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    "really interesting journey through 'madness'"

    this book was pretty intense. what an amazing story of family loyalty and faith in someone who clearly seems insane! i think that at the heart of it, that's what this story is about -- i mean, the mystery around her circumstances were really strange and disturbing -- but the family/friends that stood by her believing every step of the way there was a reason, and a cure, for her problems is what resonated most with me.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jennifer Columbia, SC, United States 03-27-14
    Jennifer Columbia, SC, United States 03-27-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Could not stop listening to this story!"
    What did you love best about Brain on Fire?

    I was completely intrigued by this story. How quickly she spiraled downward and what could have happened if she was not at the right place at the right time. I also give credit to her parents for not accepting her original diagnosis. She points out several issues with our current medical system and rightly encourages others to go for second opinions. Fascinating story!


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa 03-20-14
    Lisa 03-20-14
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    "Fascinating"

    This was a fascinating story and also scary. This is something that can happen to anyone. I think about all the people that may be in mental institutions when they actually have a medical condition. The story was well written and keeps your interest while providing a lot of medical detail, but it is not over your head - it is understandable.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sharon 03-20-14
    Sharon 03-20-14
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    "Riveting"
    Where does Brain on Fire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    Among top 20


    What other book might you compare Brain on Fire to and why?

    None


    Have you listened to any of Heather Henderson’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Could not put this book down. An amazing story and truly terrifying


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 03-15-14
    Elizabeth Bellevue, WA, United States 03-15-14 Member Since 2007

    A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!

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    "Deeply personal and inspiring story"

    Brain on Fire is the personal and excruciating story of Cahalan's health demise through psychosis and catatonia, through diagnosis and back to health. Cahalan researched her story extensively, as she has few accurate memories of her time in the hospital. The story is gripping and inspiring and I am grateful she has shared her story.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Louise 03-14-14
    Louise 03-14-14
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    "Fantastic!!"

    I loved this book!! It was well written and well narrated. Wow! I think everyone should read this book. I have a interest in medical topics and especially the brain. Sure makes you grateful for a normal life!
    READ IT!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Carol D. 03-12-14
    Carol D. 03-12-14 Member Since 2007

    Audible started me reading fiction again. What a treat to have professional actors narrating a book I may not have had the time to "read".

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    "Fascinating memoir of a medical nightmare."

    A well written memoir of a young women who endures a terrible medical condition. She has chosen to write about her feelings and the illness itself in great detail. The narrator is excellent and adds much to the experience.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Steve St Charles, MO, United States 03-11-14
    Steve St Charles, MO, United States 03-11-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Wow interesting never would have imagined"

    This is not my normal type of book. That being said, I found it extremely interesting and scary. I would highly recommend this book .

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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