A young woman’s revealing memoir of life after a heart transplant.
Silverstein was a 23-year-old law student when tightness in her chest and episodes of fainting first sent her to her family doctor, who advised her to eat more salt to get her blood pressure up. A year later the same doctor told her she had congestive heart failure and sent her to a cardiologist. After various tests, including a heart biopsy, he told her she had heart muscle damage, presumably from a virus, put her on medication and then referred her to another cardiologist, who sent her to another. The author’s keen assessments of her doctors, her confrontations with them, her expectations and disappointments are among the book’s best moments. After a near-fatal episode of ventricular fibrillation, Silverstein agreed to a heart transplant, unaware of how it would change her life. Shortly after her 25th birthday she received a healthy 13-year-old heart. She had to take daily medications, including strong immunosuppressives to prevent rejection. “I had made a deal with the Devil,” she writes. “In return for one precariously pulsating organ, I would endure a lifetime of poison and all its ill effects.” Her attempts to lead a normal life included marrying one year later, finishing law school, practicing law and eventually becoming an adoptive mother. At her wedding, she successfully posed as a healthy bride, but continuing to keep up appearances was extraordinarily difficult. Hospitalizations for invasive tests occurred regularly; infections plagued her weakened and vulnerable immune system. While working to create the impression of health and energy, she often felt nauseated, exhausted and misunderstood. When, after 17 years a suspicious lump suggested she might have cancer, she was ready to call it quits. She didn’t, however, and the heart that was expected to last no more than a decade has now kept Silverstein alive for 19 years.
Sets the record straight about a so-called medical miracle.