Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by

Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Chapter 30 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Two days after the biopsy, a speech pathologist, Karen Gendal, arrives to assess Susannah's ability to speak and convey ideas. Susannah cannot answer any open-ended questions, and tells Gendal that she can't get her ideas out of her head. Gendal notes that Susannah is lethargic and unemotional, and Susannah struggles with the writing tests. Gendal writes in her chart that Susannah's communication functions are absolutely not what they were when she was working as a journalist.
These tests do as much to actually test Susannah herself as they do to test just how dramatically the medical system and community has failed her. As Cahalan will mention later, the disease is relatively easy to diagnose and treat, and these tests only indicate just how ill Susannah became before receiving a diagnosis.
Themes
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Responsibility and the Medical System Theme Icon
The next day, Dr. Morrison, a neuropsychologist, comes to test Susannah's cognitive function and intelligence. Susannah performs poorly on tests that measure her working memory, word retrieval, and processing speed. When she asks Susannah to arrange blocks as shown in a picture, Susannah struggles. It's clear that Susannah is aware that she's not functioning as well as she used to, and Dr. Morrison recommends cognitive therapy.
Susannah is aware that her identity has undergone a major shift, but also recall that she has said she cannot remember any of this—so this moment shows her thinking about her identity, essentially pre-identity.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Responsibility and the Medical System Theme Icon
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