Waiting for a new heart, the author was buoyed by nine devoted friends.
At the age of 25, Silverstein (Sick Girl, 2007) underwent a heart transplant, a grueling experience that she chronicled in her first memoir. The transplant was followed by other medical challenges: breast cancer, requiring a double mastectomy, and major valve surgery. At the age of 51, she learned that her transplanted heart was failing, and she needed another one. Because of an excessive quantity of antibodies resulting from the first transplant, Silverstein’s likelihood of getting a donor match was only 14 percent, and only Cedars-Sinai, in Los Angeles, offered the highly specialized treatment she required. Besides confronting the physical ordeal of surgery, she worried that she would be isolated from her friends and family in New York. When her closest friends learned of her imminent move, though, they banded together in a generous, selfless show of support, creating a spreadsheet that ensured an “unbroken chain of presence.” Her candid recounting of five months at Cedars-Sinai tautly conveys her pain, tension, and despair as she waited for a donor heart; and, crucial to her survival, the loyalty and love bestowed by the women who took turns sitting at her bedside, festooning her hospital room with photos and decorations, bearing witness to the frustrating and frightening realities of her profound illness, and easing her pain in whatever way they could. They also frankly chastised her about her irritability toward assorted medical personnel and her ever patient husband. More than once, Silverstein felt like giving up hope: the implantation of a pacemaker seemed more than she could bear. Resisting sedation for any procedure was a way she felt in control, but the pacemaker took over, riddling her with excruciating pain, increasing as her heart failed. The author takes her title from a poem by Yeats, one of many verses that she memorized to keep her spirits up. She amply testifies to the unfailing friends—her husband included—who never lost faith in her recovery.
An intimate celebration of the power of compassion.