Dr. Bailey: Neurologist Can’t Diagnose Susannah

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Brain On Fire" by Susannah Cahalan. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who is Dr. Bailey the neurologist in Brain on Fire? How does he attempt to diagnose Susannah Cahalan?

Dr. Bailey, neurologist, is one of the first doctors to see Susannah. He considers several incorrect diagnoses for her.

Read more about the tests run by Dr. Bailey the neurologist.

Dr. Bailey, Neurologist

Dr. Bailey the neurologist is a grandfatherly man. His demeanor makes Susannah want to reassure him that everything’s fine. When she tells him she has a weird numbness in her hand and foot, he asks if she’s ever had Lyme disease, which she has not.

Bailey conducts a routine neurological exam, testing her reflexes and muscle strength, seeing if her pupils constrict. He declares everything is normal, though he says he wants to do some bloodwork and have her take an MRI.

Dr. Rothstein tells her the results of the MRI are normal, then suggests that Susannah has a virus, possibly mono. She’s relieved to finally have a diagnosis.

Settling into her mom’s home in New Jersey, Susannah tries to work on an article about a troupe of disabled dancers, but she’s unable to write. Desperate to tell her mom and Allen about this new breakdown in her abilities, Susannah wanders to the family room, where she has another hallucination and goes into a trance. Her mom and Allen make an appointment with Dr. Bailey for the following day.

Dr. Bailey does another basic neurological exam and once again concludes that Susannah is “normal.” He asks Susannah how much she drinks, and she tells him she usually has two glasses of wine a night, adding that she believes she has bipolar disorder. He says it’s a possibility and refers her to a psychiatrist. Before they leave the office, Dr. Bailey tells Susannah’s mom that Susannah is working and partying too hard and not sleeping enough. Like Susannah, her mom is filled with relief. That the diagnosis isn’t serious is exactly what she wants to hear. Only later will Susannah learn that Bailey missed many important details, like where she was when she had her first seizure.

Dr. Bailey: Neurologist Can’t Diagnose Susannah

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Susannah Cahalan's "Brain On Fire" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Brain On Fire summary:

  • How a high-functioning reporter became virtually disabled within a matter of weeks
  • How the author Cahalan recovered through a lengthy process and pieced together what happened to her
  • How Cahalan's sickness reveals the many failures of the US healthcare system

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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