“Brain on Fire” Movie Review

This movie portrays the real life story of Susannah Cahalan, based off her bestselling memoir “Brain on Fire”.  Susannah was a 21-year-old New York Times journalist who was hospitalized after she was almost lost to an autoimmune illness when the medical system failed her.  Just before being sent to a psychiatric hospital, one of her doctor’s reached out to Dr. Souhel Najjar who fought day after day to find her.  He knew there was something more – that she was lost inside her own body. After countless medical tests and weeks of uncertainty, Susannah was diagnosed with anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, a very rare autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the brain. I’ll save from spoiling this story with Susannah’s fate and the details of her progression, but believe me, it was exciting!

brain on fire

A note for nurses…

There is no more important job than the patient advocate.  While in this film, we see the parents and a doctor serve in this position, this role is often taken on by family, friends, and most importantly, nurses.  As nurses, we have a duty to serve our patients to the best of our ability.  We have a duty to fight for our patients when they need something more.  This is not a job to be taken lightly.  In a position where we are the in-between, we have to take advantage of our resources and speak up with our very last breath to be sure patients receive the best possible care and to be sure nothing is missed.  Pay attention.  Listen to patient families.  And trust your gut.


While I have not yet read the book, it is definitely being added to my list!  Her story is one of hope in total despair.  We watch as her family, friends, and doctors fight to save her from the unknown.  This movie was completely inspiring on so many dimensions.  Susannah is fulfilling her life’s dream of working at the Times when life comes around and steals her away.  What happens then is truly touching.  Check it out to see her full story!

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