Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by

Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Chapter 46 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In late September, one of Dr. Najjar's assistants invites Mom and Susannah to attend Dr. Najjar's lecture on anti-NMDA receptor autoimmune encephalitis at NYU. Susannah, Mom, Allen, and Stephen are late and slip into the lecture behind Dad, Angela, and another friend. Dr. Najjar lists tests that came back clean for a patient he refers to as SC, and Susannah realizes he's talking about her. His slideshow shows a picture of a biopsied brain sample. Susannah is entranced to see her brain like this, even though she doesn't understand what exactly the sample shows. Dr. Najjar says that this biopsy is one of less than ten biopsies on brains with this disease, making it invaluable in understanding the disease. He mentions that SC is back at work and recovered fully.
These slides of Susannah's brain biopsy offer her another look at the way she was during her time in the hospital; in this way, they function in much the same way as the EEG footage does. It shows one version of the truth, though like the videos, it cannot fully explain what Susannah's experience was. Susannah's attraction to seeing these slides mirrors her budding self when she began writing her journals and asking about what happened--it shows her actively attempting to understand herself and somehow visualize her illness.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon
Responsibility and the Medical System Theme Icon
Related Quotes
At the Post later that day, Angela mentions to Steve and Paul where they'd been. Steve asks Susannah to write a first-person piece about her experience by Friday. Though this gives Susannah only three days, she jumps at the opportunity.
For Susannah, this is a chance to finally create a cohesive narrative of what happened to her for a wider audience. It also means her recognizing that she's interesting, which is further proof of her returned spark.
Themes
Identity and Illness Theme Icon
Storytelling, Memory, and Emotion Theme Icon