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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Patty Pick for 9/15/16 is "Brain on Fire" by Susannah Cahalan

Brain on Fire is a scary but true tale by Susannah Cahalan in which she describes to us, through her own recollections and those of the people around her, the story of her harrowing experience with a strange, rare disease. As Susannah's behavior and health takes a strange and quick descent to disaster, we are drawn along for the ride. 

Susannah writes that a large portion of the time from her days of illness she can not remember herself and sometimes the memories are false ones. She eloquently describes how her parents and loved ones search for answers as Susannah continues to spiral downward. This true story will read like a medical thriller but unfortunately it is a true one. 

This bright, smart college graduate has her first job with the New York Post but she starts to feel strange. She continues to display unusual symptoms. Her symptoms point to schizophrenia and then epilepsy. Doctor after doctor struggles to find out what is changing this woman into a vegetable. Finally she is seen by Dr. Souhel Najjar, known as a real life "Dr. House". He has discovered a new, rare disease called Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. This auto-immune disease commonly attacks young women and the only way currently to diagnose is to do a brain biopsy to look for inflammation. Through treatment and rehab some patients make a full recovery. Susannah's physical outlook is good, it was caught in time. 

She is sharing this story in her book to make us all aware that this is a disease to be tested for and treated progressively. Through her own words, her "Month of Madness" is very hard to read at times, but important to understand that there are dangerous and unknown disease forms out there and we need to educate ourselves and the medical professional which are our first line of defense against these. You will be touched by her and her family's struggle to find out what is happening to her and her will to find her way back to her life. A definite thumb's up!