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Mirkat Always Reading

I'm always reading something, usually multiple books at a time.

Brain on Fire

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness - Susannah Cahalan, Heather Henderson



Susannah Cahalan was a healthy 24-year-old working as a reporter for the New York Post when she began to have seemingly unrelated and inexplicable symptoms, such as memory problems, sensitivity to light, anxiety, mood swings, food aversions, and insomnia.  Tests revealed nothing unusual, and her neurologist was convinced she was a heavy drinker who just needed to lay off the sauce.  After a seizure and a psychotic break, Cahalan woke up at NYU Hospital with gaping holes in her memory.  Tests continued to yield no clues until neurosurgeon Souhel Najjar asked her to draw a clockface and write in all the numbers, 1-12.  In her drawing, Cahalan crammed all of the numbers into the right half of the sphere she had drawn.  This caused Dr. Najjar to suspect that the right hemisphere of her brain was inflamed.  Once that was confirmed, the medical team was able to home in on a diagnosis.  Cahalan's condition was a  rare auto-immune disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.  This condition was causing her body to attack her brain.  Once identified, the anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis could be treated, and a slow but steady recovery made possible.


This true-life medical mystery makes for an interesting--and harrowing--narrative.  The fear and frustration that Cahalan, her family, and her boyfriend experienced during the process are palpable.  I recommend this book with just a small caveat that for me, the ending fell a bit flat for me.  I guess I wanted just a bit more.