Friday, August 30, 2013

ReView of BRAIN ON FIRE by Susannah Calahan

Genre: NonFiction / Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Length: 264 pages
Publisher: Free Press
First Published: 2013

After reading this book, I felt so impacted that I seriously thought about the multitude of ways it can be made use of.  Obviously, from a medical stand-point the book offers a patient insight of recovery that is undeniably useful and detailed.  It shows how a damaged and almost hopeless patient can recover and survive due to a great support system, incredible doctors, and definitely at the hands of the appropriate medical methods.

"A gripping memoir and medical suspense story about a young New York Post reporter’s struggle with a rare and terrifying disease, opening a new window into the fascinating world of brain science.

One day, Susannah Cahalan woke up in a strange hospital room, strapped to her bed, under guard, and unable to move or speak. Her medical records—from a month-long hospital stay of which she had no memory—showed 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. As weeks ticked by and Susannah moved inexplicably from violence to catatonia, $1 million worth of blood tests and brain scans revealed nothing. The exhausted doctors were ready to commit her to the psychiatric ward, in effect condemning her to a lifetime of institutions, or death, until Dr. Souhel Najjar—nicknamed Dr. House—joined her team. He asked Susannah to draw one simple sketch, which became key to diagnosing her with a newly discovered autoimmune disease in which her body was attacking her brain, an illness now thought to be the cause of “demonic possessions” throughout history.

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.
" (GoodReads)

I would recommend this book to anyone.  Most of all though, I recommend this book to individuals who have struggled with fear and courage because this book tackles both in the face of loss.  Whether you experience personal loss, or the loss of your own memory due to an illness, this book shows you all the ways in which you can survive through that loss.

Her family were a huge part of the recovery, including her newly added boyfriend who stood by her side all the while she was recovering.  Great doctors are key, because if it wasn't for one significant doctor to notice how a particular text gave way to a very unique symptom that diagnosed her with a new added disorder, she would have never been on the right path of recovery.  Lastly, I believe that if it wasn't for the pieces of her life to be recorded and tracked she might have never put together the beautiful account of her life that we find in this book.

She struggled to reconstruct her life, piece by piece.  It's profound to realize that you find yourself with a scratched white plate and knowing that you've lived a lifetime of memories and events that you cannot remember. Those experiences have shaped who you are and you have no idea what they are.  Luckily through the interviews with her doctors, her parents, her boyfriend and friends, watching the monitoring videos, reading her parents notes and journals, she reconstructed her life fairly well.

One of the most beautiful and touching medical memoirs I have read.

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