Silverstein, Amy 1964(?)-
Silverstein, Amy 1964(?)-
Born c. 1964; married; children: one son. Education: New York University Law School, J.D.
Home—NY. E-mail—[email protected]
United Network for Organ Sharing (board member).
Sick Girl, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Writer and attorney Amy Silverstein thought she had a perfectly normal life until suddenly, when she was just twenty-four years old, she learned that she needed a heart transplant. At the time she was in a new relationship, attending New York University Law School, and achieving in the same way she always had, as a high-stress, type-A personality. When she began to black out and suffer disturbing symptoms such as temporary blindness, the initial diagnosis was low blood pressure caused in part by poor diet and the stress of her daily life. Silverstein had never suffered from any serious illnesses prior to this, so it made sense when her highly regarded New York City physician recommended she increase her salt intake and try to ease her nerves. However, stress and diet were not the issue at all. Instead, Silverstein's heart was about to give out.
Silverstein chronicles her experiences and her survival against the odds in her book Sick Girl. She tells the story of her harrowing wait for a transplant, how she eventually did receive a donor heart from a fifteen-year-old girl, and how the transplant gave her a second chance at life. What she also tells readers, boldly and with no apologies, is that life as a transplant patient is not the same as getting her old life back. Yes, the transplant gave her the chance to do things she might not have otherwise; she finished law school and became an attorney, got married, and is raising a child—though she was forced to adopt as her body would not have survived the physical hardships of pregnancy. However, she is living on borrowed time, having already surpassed her life expectancy as a heart recipient by nearly a decade. In addition, she often feels ill and is still required to take a large amount of medication daily. While this life is far better than the alternative, at least most of the time, Silverstein wants to make it understood that a heart transplant did not simply make her better. That said, she makes a strong plea for people to consider organ donation, reminding readers that if no one had been willing to donate that young woman's heart, Silverstein would most likely be dead.
Sick Girl met with mixed critical response. Some reviewers praised Silverstein for her honest chronicle of her illness, while others, and some readers, criticized her for seeming ungrateful in the wake of her fortuitous second chance at life. Jennifer Reese, writing for Entertainment Weekly, sympathized with Silverstein's experiences, but concluded that "it's impossible to warm to her shrill, self-pitying book." Silverstein herself, when asked in an interview posted on her home page whether she feels grateful for her transplant, responded: "I am tremendously grateful for being alive, for this wonderful donor organ, and for the support of my doctors, family, and friends all these post-transplant years…. what I am not grateful for is having had my health taken away from me when I was just twenty-four years old, and for living every day since then with transplant-related illnesses and struggles that challenge me at every turn. Nor am I thankful that I live every day with the threat of imminent death by my side." Erika Schickel, in a review for the Los Angeles Times Online, remarked: "There is often a disconnect between the high stakes of the story and the ability of its protagonist to translate that experience into a work of literature that will hold and transport readers. Silverstein's prose is at best workmanlike, but her framing is masterful and the raw material is heart-stopping."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Silverstein, Amy, Sick Girl, Grove Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Entertainment Weekly, October 12, 2007, Jennifer Reese, review of Sick Girl, p. 79.
Good Housekeeping, October, 2007, "To Touch Your Heart," p. 241.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of Sick Girl.
Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Maura Sostack, review of Sick Girl, p. 110.
Publishers Weekly, May 28, 2007, review of Sick Girl, p. 45.
Amy Silverstein Home Page,http://www.amysilverstein.com (March 25, 2008).
U.S. News and World Report Online,http://health.usnews.com/ (October 15, 2007), Avery Comarow, "Comarow on Quality: Amy Silverstein's Reply."