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Home » Books » Science » Medicine » Diseases

Brain on Fire

My Month of Madness

By Susannah Cahalan

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Format: Paperback, 266 pages
Other Information: Illustrated
Published In: United States, 01 August 2013
An award-winning memoir and instant New York Times bestseller that goes far beyond its riveting medical mystery, Brain on Fire is the powerful account of one woman's struggle to recapture her identity. When twenty-four-year-old Susannah Cahalan woke up alone in a hospital room, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak, she had no memory of how she'd gotten there. Days earlier, she had been on the threshold of a new, adult life: at the beginning of her first serious relationship and a promising career at a major New York newspaper. Now she was labeled violent, psychotic, a flight risk. What happened? In a swift and breathtaking narrative, Susannah tells the astonishing true story of her descent into madness, her family's inspiring faith in her, and the lifesaving diagnosis that nearly didn't happen. "A fascinating look at the disease that . . . could have cost this vibrant, vital young woman her life" (People), Brain on Fire is an unforgettable exploration of memory and identity, faith and love, and a profoundly compelling tale of survival and perseverance that is destined to become a classic.

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"Harrowing . . . Cahalan's tale is . . . admirably well-researched and described. . . . This story has a happy ending, but take heed: It is a powerfully scary book." "A dramatic and suspenseful book that draws you into her story and holds you there until the last page. . . I recommend it highly." "The bizarre and confounding illness that beset the 24-year-old "New York Post "reporter in early 2009 so ravaged her mentally and physically that she became unrecognizable to coworkers, family, friends, and--most devastatingly--herself... She dedicates this miracle of a book to 'those without a diagnosis'... [An] unforgettable memoir." "Swift and haunting." "Compelling...a "New York Post" reporter recounts her medical nightmare." It's a cold March night in New York, and journalist Susannah Cahalan is watching PBS with her boyfriend, trying to relax after a difficult day at work. He falls asleep, and wakes up moments later to find her having a seizure straight out of "The Exorcist." "My arms suddenly whipped straight out in front of me, like a mummy, as my eyes rolled back and my body stiffened," Cahalan writes. "I inhaled repeatedly, with no exhale. Blood and foam began to spurt out of my mouth through clenched teeth." It's hard to imagine a scenario more nightmarish, but for Cahalan the worst was yet to come. In 2009, the "New York Post" reporter, then 24, was hospitalized after -- there's really no other way to put it -- losing her mind. In addition to the violent seizures, she was wracked by terrifying hallucinations, intense mood swings, insomnia and fierce paranoia. Cahalan spent a month in the hospital, barely recognizable to her friends and family, before doctors diagnosed her with a rare autoimmune disorder. "Her brain is on fire," one doctor tells her family. "Her brain is under attack by her own body." Cahalan, who has since recovered, remembers almost nothing about her monthlong hospitalization -- it's a merciful kind of amnesia that most people, faced with the same illness, would embrace. But the best reporters never stop asking questions, and Cahalan is no exception. In "Brain on Fire, "the journalist reconstructs -- through hospital security videotapes and interviews with her friends, family and the doctors who finally managed to save her life -- her hellish experience as a victim of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The result is a kind of anti-memoir, an out-of-body personal account of a young woman's fight to survive one of the cruelest diseases imaginable. And on every level, it's remarkable. The best journalists prize distance and objectivity, so it's not surprising that the most difficult subject for a news writer is probably herself. And although she's you "Focusing her journalistic toolbox on her story, Cahalan untangles the medical mystery surrounding her condition...A fast-paced and well-researched trek through a medical mystery to a hard-won recovery." "For the neurologist, I highly recommend this book on several grounds...First, it is a well-told story, worth reading for the suspense and the dramatic cadence of events...Second, it is a superb case study of a rare neurologic diagnosis; even experienced neurologists will find much to learn in it...Third, and most important, it gives the neurologist insight into how a patient and her family experienced a complex illness, including the terrifying symptoms, the difficult pace of medical diagnosis, and the slow recovery. This story clearly contains lessons for all of us." "This fascinating memoir by a young "New York Post reporter..."describes how she crossed the line between sanity and insanity...Cahalan expertly weaves together her own story and relevant scientific information...compelling."

EAN: 9781451621389
ISBN: 1451621388
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Dimensions: 21.08 x 13.97 x 2.03 centimetres (0.25 kg)
Age Range: 15+ years
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