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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

4.1 (1750 )
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Performance
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  •  
    M. K. LaFrance Hartford, CT USA 12-07-12
    M. K. LaFrance Hartford, CT USA 12-07-12 Member Since 2015

    Hartford Woman

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Couldn't Turn it Off!"
    What made the experience of listening to Brain on Fire the most enjoyable?

    The revelations about how much of our consciousness is contained in our brains. Surprising for someone who has always been "superstitious" and spiritual.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Brain on Fire?

    Waiting for the breakdown that you new was coming for the author.


    Which character – as performed by Heather Henderson – was your favorite?

    The author's boyfriend Stephen.


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

    YES!


    Any additional comments?

    Highly recommend it for anyone who isn't usually fond on non-fiction. This story is fascinating.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    dean united states 12-04-12
    dean united states 12-04-12
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    "Great Story, Great Narration"

    I don't agree with the reviewer who said the narration was too fast. The story is a compelling medical mystery that held my attention, I'm amazed that Susannah Cahalan was correctly diagnosed and glad she is doing well. Heather Henderson gives life to the story and makes you feel as if the author is there speaking to you. Clear and crisp. I highly recommend this audiobook.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 09-14-14
    Taryn Suffern, NY, United States 09-14-14 Member Since 2006

    Addicted to Audible!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    190
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    Story
    "Always get a second or third opinion"

    As a Nurse I always tell my patients, get a second opinion or a third or a fourth and always have an advocate with you when you go to a hospital. This book kept my interest and I was thankful that Susannah had parents that were amazing advocates for her and kept getting those opinions till they found Dr. Najar who saved her life! What a scary experience she had. She is a very lucky woman!

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Schilling 03-30-14
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    "The story is intriguing, but the performer isn't."
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Story: Yes.
    Performance: I was irritated almost the entire time spent listening.


    Would you recommend Brain on Fire to your friends? Why or why not?

    Paper Copy: Yes.
    Audible Performance: No.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The "dramatic" scenes were disingenuous thanks to the performer's daytime soap opera acting skills. I was horrified at what felt so much like a mockery. Any talent behind the text was robbed.


    Could you see Brain on Fire being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    A movie? Sure. But more of a Lifetime movie than a blockbuster hit. Candice Cameron-Bure would be an interesting choice, but I may think that simply because I can't recall the names of other Lifetime movie actresses.


    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sunshyne Ewing, NJ, United States 07-08-13
    Sunshyne Ewing, NJ, United States 07-08-13 Member Since 2008

    An avid reader and listener with eclectic tastes... One unifying them is my love of humor, mystery and great narration.

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    "Will make you say thanks for a healthy brain"

    If you are not convinced of the wondrous nature of the brain, you will be after listening to this author's harrowing tale. She does an excellent job presenting the biographical information in a narrative style so that it "reads" more like fiction. The scary thing is that it's not...

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrea @ The Busy Bibliophile 06-28-13
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    "Don’t miss it."
    Any additional comments?

    What an amazing story. This would be a great fiction story, but the fact that it’s true makes it all the more incredible.

    Susannah takes us on the journey she took as she fell ill to the mysterious illness. The book starts at the first sign that something is wrong and takes us through her time in the hospital, her diagnosis, treatment and the follow-up care and research. Even though she can’t remember anything from that time, she has pulled together doctor’s notes, videos and interviews to create a thorough timeline that makes the reader fell like they’re living through it with her.

    And it was scary. One minute she was an outgoing, confident young woman and the next she was a paranoid, delusional mess. It came on so suddenly and there were only a few signs that something was wrong before she ended up in the hospital. The tests and incorrect diagnoses she went through before they ever discovered her problem were immense and I’m impressed that her family didn’t give up on her. Their persistence is a testament of their love. Also? I think she might have the best real-life boyfriend ever.

    You know it’s going to end well (she did write the book, after all) but the writing is so immersive and intense, that you wonder how it will all work out. This could have had a very different outcome, and Susannah is very lucky that the right doctor found the right test at the right time.

    The last section of the book deals with the aftermath – how Susannah continues to be affected and the research and development that have gone into the disease since her diagnosis. That section wasn’t as intense as the earlier parts, but it was interesting. In fact, there are interesting facts and tidbits throughout the book, which were especially useful so we would know exactly how Susannah’s brain was misfiring.

    The narrator did a great job, she had the moods and affectations down perfectly. When combined with the fabulous writing, I really felt like I was there in Susannah’s head while she was going through this.

    An intriguing story made even better by the tight writing. Susannah is a gifted writer and I’m amazed this is her first book. Don’t miss it.

    2 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cindy 11-26-12
    Cindy 11-26-12
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    "Gets Technical"
    What made the experience of listening to Brain on Fire the most enjoyable?

    This story was interesting but after awhile there is a great deal of medical terminology. By the end I skipped forward several times and still seemed to be listening to the same thing.


    4 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rebecca 09-08-14
    Rebecca 09-08-14
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    "An Important Read"
    Is there anything you would change about this book?

    This is a very important story and could help a lot of people. It failed to really engage me though. Much of the detail of the content was monotonous. Excess verbiage could have been omitted which would have made it a more captivating read. That being said, I am very glad I read this one and will recommend to friends.


    Any additional comments?

    I do highly recommend this book as a source of education. It is a good and speedy read.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    R. Caywood 08-28-14
    R. Caywood 08-28-14 Member Since 2014

    Graphics Guru

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    "Both interesting and terrifying at the same time"
    What did you love best about Brain on Fire?

    The journey of Susannah from a successful, everyday young woman to a quick decent into madness is a really scary thought. Although she doesn't remember most of it she did a great job of collecting the details from those that were with her.


    What didn’t you like about Heather Henderson’s performance?

    Susannah was in her early/mid 20s when this happened, Henderson's voice just sounds so much older, I kept forgetting that the author was as young as she was. Also, all her fake accents sound really goofy.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    constance 07-23-14
    constance 07-23-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great story, tough performance."
    Would you consider the audio edition of Brain on Fire to be better than the print version?

    No, I wish I had read it.


    How could the performance have been better?

    The reader is completely inappropriate, she sounds much too old, and too slick.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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