Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness


Susannah Cahalan

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Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness: Chapter 53 Summary & Analysis

Two years after Susannah is released from the hospital, she returns for a visit. She wanders around the twelfth floor and recognizes nothing. A nurse directs Susannah to the epilepsy unit in the west wing of the twelfth floor, which explains why Susannah remembers nothing. When she smells the alcohol swabs, she remembers. Susannah then sees the purple lady at the nurse's station. Susannah approaches her and asks if she remembers her. When Susannah tells the nurse her name, the nurse's eyes widen and she embraces Susannah. Susannah remembers Dad feeding her and Stephen bringing her things from home. The purple lady kisses Susannah on the cheek.
Susannah's flood of memories suggests that it's not just smells or sounds that can trigger memories: love and caring, encapsulated in people themselves, are also capable of this. A person's identity isn't just created and cultivated by others—instead personal and public identities feed into each other. A person with memories of someone else can actually return memories to someone, thereby helping that person remember and cultivate their own identity.
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