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
"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)
An remarkable, true story of a 24 year old woman's descent into madness for several months and how she was able to recover. Scary to think this could happen to anyone at any time.
Good book detailing the tragic illness and recovery of a NYT journalist. The narrative was compelling.
The reader does a fantastic job of capturing the harrowing autobiography. The author not only takes you through the details of her falling down into a sense of psychosis, but also provides you with the medical terminology and explanations of what she was going through (which makes a microbiology nerd like me very happy). I couldn't put down this book until the end. Not only was it entertaining but it was also thoroughly informative!
I listen to and have recently started to write reviews. I've found the reviews have helped me to select books.
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.
The narration helps to personalize the story.
This was a riveting account of a mysterious onset illness and the fight for a correct diagnosis. A true story of mystery, disease, confusion, fear and victory all rolled into one. It leaves one wondering how often patients are misdiagnosed.
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.
Among top 20
Could not put this book down. An amazing story and truly terrifying
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!
An interesting account of an alarming chapter in a young reporter's life
I was suspicious that perhaps this was a writer creating a story to write about by pretending to be sick, but based on the details and the medical evidence it is clear it was just an cruely-ironic coincidence that her biggest story would be herself (for now at least).
The most valuable aspect of this book is how it successfully conveys the experience of the blurring of reality and hallucination. This builds sympathy in the reader for her condition and others who suffer with mental illness.
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".
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.
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