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)
This is not my normal type of book. That being said, I found it extremely interesting and scary. I would highly recommend this book .
It was a fascinating and brilliantly delivered story of her experience. The narrator was an excellent choice in that it brought the story ‘alive.’ I was intrigued by the in-depth explanation of the different parts of the brain and other elements of the body. I've listen to many audio books and this one will be among my top 5 favorites.
The narrator is great. She makes the book better. The content is amazing. In the beginning of the story, I did find it hard to sympathize with the author's plight because she came off as very annoying. However, this annoyance faded as the story progressed.
Something that is overlooked in the main premise of this story is how important medical advocacy is. The parents of the author are the reason she got the care she did. The story really is amazing. At the same time, it is sad to think of how many others were erroneously diagnosed with mental illness that was actually caused by something else (no spoilers from me).
This book is a nice complement to "My Stoke of Insight." I do wish the author had narrated. I'm not sure why she didn't...but perhaps it would have been poor narration. The narrator adds to the story and makes it a 5 star book.
This story is so important to tell. Madness can strike any of us at anytime for nearly any reason. Perhaps if we remove stigma from psychosis it could be treated in a more holistic way. Perhaps one day we will finally see that the psyche and body are not separate, but so intricately intertwined they are nearly always acting together.
Been on/off with Audible since '07, when I found myself long-term in China, desperate for English language books. Love a good story.
Bought and finished in just a couple days, fascinating deep dive into madness and what defines that (and how we define it), and how far we still have to go in understanding the human brain. Great read, well worth a credit.
Every so often you hear of some disease, behavior or mental state that has no cure and no explanation. Later someone finds out there was a simple cure or explanation. We may never come across this malady, but it was an interesting story. The author may have avoided the pain if she knew of this malady before it struck. You come away wondering how such things could happen and physician that is supposed to know, has no clue.
Having a brain nerve disease, I am fascinated by stories like this. As she slowly went crazy, my heart went out to her. Inflammation is a great bodily response, however when the inflammation does not go away, the body reacts in many ways. I know many people who have auto-immune diseases and they are always miserable. This is a story of success. To me, her situation is not the norm and she is so very fortunate. Now, if medical R&D could have success with the remaining hundreds of similar diseases.
I gave the book 4 stars because of all the medical jargon in the last chapters. I enjoyed it however, I doubt that many others will.
Sci-fi, History, Police Procedurals and Science
In 1990, William Stryon published "Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness." One of the great authors of this generation writing about what it was like to experience depression. Similarly, in "An Unquiet Mind" Kay Redfield Jamison, "one of the foremost authorities on manic-depressive (bipolar) illness"; discussed her experiences as a patient. Now we have a reporter writing about a season in hell with her mental illness. I highly recommend all three.....which puts this book in great company.
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