Heart transplants are a miracle, no question about it. Thanks to those miracles, Silverstein became a lawyer and a mother. Thanks to those miracles, and the generosity of those donors, my friend Pam has held her grandchildren in her arms. Miracles.
But miracles like these are hard-earned and hard-won.
They depend in the first instance on the most precious and most selfless generosity of the donors and their next of kin. Silverstein received both her hearts from 13-year-old girls whose lives ended too soon and whose parents were able to see through their grief to give someone else hope. Can there be a greater gift?
“Sick Girl,” Amy’s first book, generated a huge response. Some of the response, from other transplant patients, was very positive, especially from those who recognized Amy’s pain as their own. And some of it was very negative: hate mail for her criticism of the health care system. She called it the “gratitude paradox” that arises from the fact that “organ transplantation is mired in stagnant science and antiquated, imprecise medicine that fails patients and organ donors,” leaving those with transplants feeling sick almost every day.
When I’m tempted to complain, I think of Silverstein, and of my friend Pam, and of what they endure to stay alive, and of the precious gift of life. Imperfect miracles to be sure, but miracles nonetheless.
Silverstein lived for nine years with her second heart. She died this week, at the age of 59. Hopefully, her courage and her honesty may make life easier for those who will walk in her shoes in the future.