A North Reading woman missing for nearly a week from her Brooklyn apartment has returned home safely, her family said today.
Brianna Zani, 21, left her Bushwick neighborhood apartment on March 16 after she abruptly stopped taking an experimental antidepressant drug called Levomilnacipran, her family said yesterday. She was found disoriented by police on Thursday and taken to a local hospital for psychiatric treatment, but she wandered away shortly afterward and hadn’t been seen since then.
“She stops taking her medication, and all of a sudden she came into work and was acting very strange and on Saturday she didn’t show up for work, and Sunday her roommates said she was acting spacey and strange,” Zani’s father, Will, said in a telephone interview.
Will, and his wife, Brenda, have been searching New York since last Wednesday, and were on their way to her apartment after hearing she was home, safe.
“I won’t be satisfied until she’s in my arms,” Will Zani said in a phone interview with the Globe.
On Sunday, Zani’s roommates told her parents she chopped off her hair and left her apartment without her cell phone, wallet, money, or subway pass. Disoriented, she apparently wandered around Brooklyn for two days before police found her. Her parents arrived in New York on Wednesday and got the call that she was safe at an area hospital, Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, but minutes before they arrived, she left.
“I got to the hospital and walked over to see an empty bed,” Will Zani said.
As her parents arrived from the North Shore, her friends and other family members took to the Web, gathering support on Internet social networks like Facebook and Twitter. By yesterday, more than 1,300 people had joined a Facebook group called “Find Brianna Zani,” and several more are following a Twitter account, a website at www.bzani.com, and a blog at findbzani.blogspot.com.
“It’s really difficult to find words -- and find words that aren’t cliché -- but this is certainly like nothing that I’ve ever experienced,” Will Zani said.
By last weekend, 50 volunteers were scouring New York City, and hundreds more were online spreading the word. The search even scaled to a “low tech” solution – a local radio club called the Kings County Amateur Radio Emergency Services, joined the search, taking their knowledge of city streets and local landmarks to vet dozens of tips and reporting Zani sightings.
Zani, 5-foot-6, blonde with green eyes, suffers from depression, her father said. Earlier reports indicated she suffered from bipolar disorder, but Dr. Gary Sachs, the founder and co-director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said she would never have been allowed to take the drug she was on if that was the case.
Levomilnacipran is a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor in phase III clinical trials. It is under development by Forest Laboratories, which also makes the antidepressant Lexapro.
Sachs said that patients who abruptly stop taking these kinds of medications can suffer radical effects.
“This is part of the risk we all take when we take a medication,” Sachs said. “It doesn’t have to be an experimental medication. There are these small risks of very dramatic thigns going wrong. It’s the same as flying on an airplane or driving home from work – there’s a certain amount of risk that we take, and we should take it with our eyes open and with other people aware of the risks being taken.”
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