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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

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (1242 )
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4.1 (1116 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 05-14-13
    Kim Spokane, WA, United States 05-14-13 Member Since 2009

    Addicted to audiobooks & podcasts. 5 Stars=I Loved It, 4 Stars=Enjoyed it Thoroughly, 3=Kinda Good, 2=Bad/Boring, 1=Complete Waste of Credit

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not what I was looking for"

    I'm assuming this is the first book for the author - it wasn't bad but maybe some more time to recover and/or gain some experience is in order before she tries again. I guess it would be OK for a younger audience or for a short trip if you're desperate for something to listen to - I've heard worse.

    2 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Brandin Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-17-14
    Brandin Los Angeles, CA, United States 03-17-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Some editing would have made this a 4 Star"

    The book is just too long. There are too many little unimportant details that the author relays & I found myself getting very very bored. The premise of the story (her experience) is one that I find fascinating & terrifying - but the book is just too long.

    The narrator has one of those super commercial sounding "goody two shoes" type voices that I find a little irritating. Her line deliveries aren't a total deal-breaker, but I absolutely would NOT buy another book narrated by this reader. Eeeesh.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bj 03-16-14
    Bj 03-16-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Informative but difficult "listen""

    I learned a lot about the brain from this book....and in that vein it was a good book to listen to. However, I struggled to stay with it...over and over. The woman who was dealt the horrible blow of this condition to her brain went thru hell. It was difficult to listen to it over and over again. Not only did she endure the horrible siutation but her loved ones did as well. I just had a hard time staying with the story as it was a bit on the depressing side. If you are interested in how our brains function or why they dont function.....and the myriads of other things that occur in our brains than this is a great book to listen to that would not be over the average persons head. Im glad she came thru that hell (obviously- as she wrote the book), and to be able to share this detail with others who could be or know someone that has issues related to the brain. The narrator did a good job overall......so no real feedback from that perspective. Personally, I struggled staying with the story.....and was relieved when I finished.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Flynn O'Neill PALISADE, Colombia 03-08-14
    Flynn O'Neill PALISADE, Colombia 03-08-14 Member Since 2010
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    "Interesting patient's perspective of healthcare"
    Any additional comments?

    As a neuroscience nurse I found Susannah Cahallan's story of illness, diagnosis and recovery interesting, particularly from the patient perspective. It is a helpful to remind clinicians what a frightening and alien environment healthcare is to the uninitiated. Kudos to Susannah and her family for fighting for answers. Her story illustrates how easy it can be to be misdiagnosed and fall through the many bottomless cracks of healthcare today. We all have to educate our selves, take responsibility and be ferociously persistent in our pursuit of health.
    Unfortunately I found the writing to be irritating at times with its repetitions, poor grammar and formulaic approach. Perhaps I expect to much? It may have been the reader. I have heard other performances by Ms Henderson and I find her delivery lacking.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William KEARNEY, NE, United States 03-06-14
    William KEARNEY, NE, United States 03-06-14 Member Since 2011
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    "Overall, very touching"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. It is a touching and revealing story.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The author's willingness to be as vulnerable as she is.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    Overall pretty convincing EXCEPT whenever she tried to do any kind of an accent. Each attempt at Middle-Eastern or Hispanic accents brought to mind Fearless Leader from Bullwinkle. When she tries to do a Jamaican accent it comes out as a leprechaun. Really, if you cannot do accents well, then don't do them.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Can it happen to you?


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Laura Montgomery Village, MD, United States 07-16-13
    Laura Montgomery Village, MD, United States 07-16-13 Member Since 2010

    Why ever would I do that?

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    "Only if you're interested in ...."

    This book was reasonably good but did drag on quite a bit. I found myself thinking of daily chores instead of focusing. Lots of playing back. It's fine but not nearly as interesting as I had hoped.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Margaux 03-04-13
    Margaux 03-04-13

    Taking recommendations!

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    "Good bio!"
    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed this book. It's a good bio. The one bad comment I would write was about the narrator. It was narrated well, but they should have had it narrated by someone a little younger. It was written as a older women telling her story at the age of 24. I kept thinking the story was about a 30 some old women because the narrator was older.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Eileen ALBANY, OR, United States 03-01-13
    Eileen ALBANY, OR, United States 03-01-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Facinating and true Story with a great Ending"
    If you could sum up Brain on Fire in three words, what would they be?

    Frightening, Informative and Wondering


    What did you like best about this story?

    The insight into Schitzophrenia from the patient's experiences.


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

    no


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    How here family stuck with her.


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mary 06-05-14
    Mary 06-05-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Recommend!..Fascinating and Frightening true story"

    Listened to this book in just 2 days...and I rarely do that - it had me hooked! Highly recommend this book about a young woman's highly scary and disturbing experience with "madness" caused by a treatable illness which was nearly missed entirely by her medical team, but thankfully was ultimately diagnosed correctly. If it had not been correctly diagnosed, she may have ended up in a mental institution. Even if this is not a typical genre of book you read, it is still well worth the time to become familiar with this vexing and mysterious illness which was not discovered and correctly diagnosed until 2007! It is frightening to imagine how many innumerable people may have been institutionalized or died due to it prior to 2007. It is also worth reading so one can ponder about how often patients may be misdiagnosed due to under-informed physicians as well as many other possible reasons doctors may not diagnose accurately or completely. This is not to be a criticism of all doctors, it is simply a reality and the account of Susannah's experience conveys why I believe (from personal experience) it is often in a person's best interest & highest good to seek multiple medical opinions (western, eastern and alternative), most particularly when a person is experiencing a complicated or mysterious "dis-ease", such as Susannah's type of (and many other) auto-immune disorders. This book is a well researched and well written account of the gripping physical and mental roller coaster Susannah experienced and from which she was very fortunately able to substantially, and hopefully nearly fully, recover.
    For me, the narrator/narration was the weakest part of this audiobook. Not awful, but it did not resonate with me overall as an accurate portrayal of the author's emotions, reflections or experiences. There were moments when it grated on me, but all in all I was able to disregard it enough to appreciate, and be engrossed in, the content of this book. Had the narration been superior, I would have given the audiobook an overall 5 star rating. Regardless of feeling the narration could have been much better, I still highly recommend this book in audio or print!

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly Killefer 06-02-14 Member Since 2005
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    "Love to Learn"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Brain on Fire to be better than the print version?

    Didn't read the print version.


    Any additional comments?

    I enjoyed the opportunity to learn about a new subject first hand from the person who was intimate with it.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
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