Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by

Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Afterword Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
A year later, Susannah returns to NYU to visit one of Dr. Najjar's patients struggling with the same disease. Susannah recognizes herself in the patient's rigid, thin body. Her parents explain that Dr. Bailey actually suggested they seek out Dr. Najjar, though he hadn't mentioned that he missed Susannah's case.
This satisfying turn of events shows that even doctors who seem unwilling to change eventually can. The broken medical system does indeed have the power and the wherewithal to change for the better.
Themes
Responsibility and the Medical System Theme Icon
Susannah explains that when she was diagnosed, doctors believed that 90% of cases were undiagnosed. Now, Susannah says that it's common to test for it and if treated early, 81% make a full recovery. However, doctors still know little about the disease, and 7% of patients still die. Susannah says that she's made it her mission to share her story as much as possible. She's also created a nonprofit foundation to help people find care, and she believes her book has given many people the words to describe their disease. She admits, finally, that she wouldn't take back her experience for anything.
By taking on the mission of spreading information about the disease, Cahalan seeks to fill in where the medical community itself leaves a gap. The nonprofit foundation and its website continue the work she began with this book by making the disease even easier to research online. Finally, realizing that she wouldn't take back her disease shows that she did integrate her relationship to her illness into her identity. It's now an integral and appreciated part of her.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Responsibility and the Medical System Theme Icon