One month changed Susannah Cahalan’s life forever. In 2009, Cahalan was a 24-year-old reporter for the New York Post. But a sudden, puzzling illness made her unrecognizable. Cahalan experienced symptoms ranging from seizures and hallucinations to psychosis and catatonia. Her illness was made even more frustrating by misdiagnoses and dismissals from medical providers. Fortunately, Cahalan found her answer thanks to Dr. Souhel Najjar, who diagnosed her with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis – the right side of Cahalan’s brain was inflamed.
Cahalan used her reporting skills to piece together that harrowing month, writing the best-selling memoir, “Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness.” She has heard from many people who have been affected by encephalitis and are grateful that she told her story. Cahalan now uses her experience to advocate for people with rare diseases and calls on medical providers to listen to and respect patients.