Thanks to developments in modern medicine, we can live healthier, longer lives than ever before. But that doesn’t mean medical professionals are perfect – even the most skilled physicians and nurses can improperly diagnose a condition. If that happens, the consequences can be grave.

When Susannah Cahalan was hospitalized for insanity, she had no idea that she was about to face the fight of her life. At 24 years old, Susannah’s condition was very different than what her doctors believed it to be, and it was about to be an uphill battle for her to prove that.

Susannah Cahalan was young, in a stable, loving relationship, and ready to take on the world. She had a lot ahead of her.

clockbrainSusannah Cahalan

But this was all about to change for Susannah when she began to experience indescribable sensations throughout her body.


When she suspected bedbugs might be the cause, she called an exterminator. However, this was quickly ruled out; the exterminator found nothing.


Susannah started to experience paranoia, hallucinations and seizures so severe that she was unable to work. She was lethargic and in serious distress.


Susannah was admitted to a hospital. It wasn’t long before she became violent with the staff.

She was aggressive toward visitors, even her own friends and family.


Her doctors believed Susannah was on the verge of a mental breakdown and suggested admitting her to a psychiatric facility. 

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That’s when Dr. Souhel Najjar decided to take another look at Susannah’s condition.


He knew her behavior was inexplicable, but that it wasn’t time to give up on Susannah just yet. He asked her to perform one simple task. It would be this test that would change everything.

clockbrain3Susannah Cahalan

Dr. Souhel Najjar asked Susannah to draw a clock. When she put pen to paper, his suspicions were confirmed.


Susannah’s “insanity” was not true insanity. It was a physical condition, not a mental one.

clockbrain2Susannah Cahalan

Susannah’s clock showed all the numbers on the right side of its face, a clear indicator of brain damage. 


Dr. Najjar diagnosed Susannah with Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis, a condition that causes the immune system’s antibodies to attack the brain.

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Susannah could have fallen ill and died if this condition was left untreated.


Thankfully, she received the treatment she needed and was completely cured after spending a month in the hospital.


Susannah wrote a book detailing her experience, which she hopes can help others dealing with similar conditions.


These days, Susannah speaks to groups about her experience with this illness. Her openness might save the lives of others suffering with untreated brain trauma.

Susannah’s experience sounds absolutely terrifying. Thankfully, she is healthy once more, all because one doctor refused to give up on her!