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)
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
A riveting account of a young woman's struggle with what only appeared to be a complete mental breakdown and her struggles to find a correct diagnosis in the hurry-up, conveyor-belt world of American medicine. It is a story both of personal endurance and an indictment of the current medical system, deeply engaging and enlightening at once.
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 book tells the compelling story of a young woman's mysterious illness that manifests as psychosis but turns out to be something else. What is eerily intriguing about the story is that the author remembers very little of it and she had to discover what happened during this period and try to piece it back together so that you feel as if you are going on the journey with her. Narration was excellent. Highly recommend this very human journey through a medical mystery.
Outstanding book made so much more intense because it is real. I generally read scifi and dystopian novels but felt compelled to try this book and I was not disappointed. It is well written and the author does an amazing job of helping the reader feel like they are witnessing everything play out.
I cried in frustration and happiness. I am rarely moved so strongly. I highly recommend this book. I felt compelled to complete the book in one sitting and struggled to set it aside to go to bed and stayed up way too late before forcing myself to sleep.
There are lots of dashed hopes, ups and downs, and a general roller coaster ride to hell and back. I was on that roller coaster in spite of the knowledge that I knew the eventual outcome.
I found myself looking everyone and everything up online. Susannah Cahalan was brutally honest and utilized all the data available to make sense of this period of her life. Again, it is an amazing book. Highly recommended!!
Reading about Susannah Cahalan's autoimmune disease and the attack of her brain was interesting. I really liked the technical aspect in "Brain on Fire." Instead of being a feel good story, she writes every torturer and medical symptoms that she went through to find out what was wrong with her. When her brain freaked out, she acted like a action hero discovering her superpowers as being paranoid, and then becoming an infant as her disease became worse, and the remarkable recovery process. Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis could be leak to Autism. It is still unknown what cause Anti-NMDA but her book shed a light on this disease.
I will not seek to give away things that would make listening to this less suspenseful, but rather focus on reasons for listening to this book. Susannah Cahalan tells the very personal and insightful story of her flight into psychosis. Her authorship allows the reader to contemplate what it might be like to become mad, and I believe increase ones compassion for those who also suffer from mental illness. Her investigation into the aftermath also details the emotions that her family felt- something that rounds out her story and at times brought tears to my eyes. The love extended around her I believe brought her through the journey with the ability to write this narrative. The stigma of being mentally ill is overcome by her writing a very detailed account of her journey, which I salute her for! The book also reflects upon the physiological basis of psychosis. Critically, I think that she still stigmatizes the mental hospital although rightly it was not the place that would have been most healing for her. I found her episode similar to what many manic patients I have known experience, as afterwards their episode is shrouded in partial memory which she overcomes by video that was taken and accounts of her loved ones. Her story should challenge doctors to continue investigating when a combination of symptoms don't make complete sense. Her story should allow one more empathy when we encounter those who are suffering with such a mind bending illness.
Say something about yourself!
This was a very good memoir. It is chilling to think that you can be at work one day and then have your brain attack you so that you are no longer yourself. How scary for her and her family. Wow! I'm familiar with autoimmune diseases through first-hand experience, and its amazing at the wide range of ways the body can turn against itself.
I thought that there was a good mix of her struggle with the disease and scientific data about the disease. Some of the books I read are way too heavy on the research, but I found that all of the information provided in this book was useful to get a better understanding of the illness. I also enjoyed the part of memories being manufactured and how you can spread incorrect information so that others also believe they remember the same thing.
The narrator was very good; at times, I forgot it wasn't the author herself speaking. I imagine this would be hard to do, given the fact that some of the author's terror and moods have to be portrayed. In this case, the narrator was an asset to the story.
I am glad that she took the time to write about this disease so that others can be educated and can learn the signs of this disease. Like the author, I cringe to think of how many people have received a psychiatric diagnosis, when in reality, there is a physical cause for their behavior.
Loves to read, but pretty much always needs to get a lot out of it. Doesn't mean fiction can't educate, Michener, Conroy, LeCarre
Yes it was time well-spent, interesting to hear about how the brain works and someone's life can be turned upside down.
not sure, but she was very good!
Maybe it's because of Susannah Cahalan's expertise in writing or Heather Henderson's wonderful narration style, whatever the reason, this audio book was amazing. This book opened my eyes to new worlds for the mentally disabled. It allowed me to have hope for those who seem hopeless. My favorite aspect of this book was that Cahalan somehow managed to make me feel what she felt--Is she crazy? Will she make a 100% recovery? Will she have a reoccurrence of encephalitis?
Heather Henderson did a fine job narrating. I would listen to another of her narrations. I'm not sure about Susannah Cahalan. It might depend on the topic.
I'm currently listening to My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor.
I have not listened to anything else by Heather.
I was interested to read this book due to the fact that it deals with a medical mystery - and a psychiatric one at that. While the author's story is certainly scary and it really is a miracle that she was able to get a proper diagnosis and recover fully, the book was not as compelling as I had hoped. I can't really put my finger on why, but I did find my mind wandering quite often as I was listening to it. At times I felt that the story droned on and on a bit too much. Not a bad read, but don't expect to be on the edge of your seat. 2.5 stars - It was more than OK, but not quite GOOD.
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