This book scared the pants off me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have chosen this to read when my latest bout of insomnia hit, but it certainly held me in its thrall until the very end.
Susannah Cahalan was a bright young reporter for the New York Post, when she awoke one morning to find a mysterious bug bite on her arm. As it was during the height of the bed bug scare, she tore her place apart, cleaning and looking for signs of an infestation. She hired an exterminator and even though he could find no evidence of any such infestation and warned her that it was going to be a lot of money down the drain, she insisted he proceed anyway. As the days pass, more troubling behavior surfaces and while watching television woth her boyfriend one evening she has a seizure. Thus begins this harrowing tale of her descent into a kind of madness and ultimate hospitalization. After weeks of different doctors and different diagnoses, Dr. Souhel Najjar (who is known as Dr. House) arrives to finally acertain a diagnosis, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, and set a course of treatment. While her story does have a happy ending, what scares me is the comparative rarity of the disease and the inablilty for the vast majority of sufferers to get the right diagnosis and treatment. It is believed that many so-called demonic possessions could be attributed to this auto-immune disease of the brain.
Ms. Cahalans prose is clear and easy to read, even when she is presenting medical data. The chapters are short and very journalistic and I found that helped me absorb the complex medical issues, while still maintaining a connection with Susannah the person, not just the patient. Harrowing and ultimately inspiring.