Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
One day, I woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to my bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. My medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which I have no memory—showed psychosis, violence, and dangerous instability. Yet, only weeks earlier I had been a healthy twenty-four year old, six months into my first serious relationship and beginning a career as a cub reporter at the New York Post.
My memoir Brain on Fire chronicles the swift path of my illness and the lucky, last-minute intervention led by one of the few doctors capable of saving my life. As weeks ticked by and I moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit me to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning me to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined my team. He asked me to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing me with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which my body was attacking my brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.
Susannah's story was frightening to say the least, going to bed one night feeling fine and waking up to the beginning of a terrifying ordeal. It amazed me that the doctors didn't just label her psychotic and lock her away for a while. Thanks to her parents that did not happen. I admired her boyfriend for staying beside her through this.
It's scary and sad to think that there are people that have this and don't know it and how many will get it and be diagnosed incorrectly. It's disturbing. This is a book everyone should read!
I received a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.