Mass. native missing in NYC returns home safely

By John M. Guilfoil
Globe Staff / March 23, 2010

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A North Reading woman missing for nearly a week from her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment returned home safely yesterday afternoon, her family said.

Brianna Zani, 21, left her Bushwick neighborhood residence on March 16 after she abruptly stopped taking an experimental antidepressant called Levomilnacipran, her family said yesterday.

Zani surprised her parents, who were getting ready to make an emotional plea on CNN for help finding their daughter, when she returned to her apartment unharmed at about 5 p.m. yesterday.

“We’re extremely fortunate,’’ said Zani’s father, Will. “We’re one of the lucky stories, and we’re so grateful.’’

On March 16, Zani left her apartment without her cellphone, wallet, or subway pass. Disoriented, she wandered around Brooklyn for two days before police found her, her father said.

Zani’s parents arrived in New York on Wednesday and got the call that she was safe at a hospital. But minutes before they arrived, she had wandered away.

As her parents arrived in New York, her friends and other family members took to the Web, gathering support on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. By yesterday, more than 1,300 people had joined a Facebook group called “Find Brianna Zani,’’ and several more were following a Twitter account, a website, and a blog.

Will Zani said his daughter did not know people were looking for her and that she was sorry “to cause such a fuss.’’

Zani has battled depression and may suffer from bipolar disorder, her father said.

Dr. Gary Sachs, founder and co-director of the Bipolar Clinic and Research Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, said patients who abruptly stop taking these kinds of medications can suffer radical and dangerous 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. . . .

“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.’’

John M. Guilfoil can be reached at