Amy Silverstein, a celebrated writer whose two memoirs, including “The Sick Girl” from 2007, chronicled her arduous and exhilarating journey through a life that required two heart transplants, died on May 5th. She was 59 years old.
Her husband, Scott Silverstein, confirmed her death but did not say where she died. The cause was cancer, which Ms. Silverstein attributes to decades of post-transplant medication.
Her death – by Mrs. Silverstein herself – was in opinion For the New York Times published on April 18.
“Today, I will explain to my healthy transplanted heart why, in a matter of days or weeks at best, it will die,” Mrs. Silverstein wrote. I slide my hand over my chest and speak loudly, resting my hand on my fragile heartbeat. “I’m so sorry, sweet girl.” She’s not used to hearing me that way, she echoed these thoughts, one day at her usual trot. My head, outside the body we share.”
By this point, the details of her life of cascading hearts not her own (both from 13-year-old girls) were familiar to legions of fans through her numerous magazine articles and TV appearances, as well as her two books, including Magdy I Had Such Friends from 2017.
Each transplant—the first was in 1988, when she was 24 and a sophomore at NYU—gave her a new lease on life, Ms. Silverstein recounts with deep gratitude. But her life was by no means the way it was.
“People don’t realize it’s hard because I’m not walking around in the oxygen tank, and I seem to be fine,” she said in a 2007 interview with Marie Claire magazine. “I live a sort of disguised life. When I get up from the table after a long dinner with friends, they walk to the door. I walk in and my heart says what are you doing? Most people consider that when you stand up, your heart immediately races. I don’t feel it, and I feel that My body is wrong every time.”
Amy Gail Shoren was born in Queens on June 3, 1963, the youngest of two daughters Arthur T Shoren, who was CEO of Topps, a sports card and collectibles company, and Arlene (Fein) Shorin. Amy, whose parents later divorced, grew up in Great Neck, New York, on Long Island.
A member of the Phi Beta Kappa Honorary Society, she graduated from New York University in 1985 with a BA in Journalism before deciding on a career in law.
In her first year of law school, she began experiencing vague symptoms, including tightness in her chest, digestive problems, and fainting spells. I wrote in “sick girl” that she would “wonder how many other young women have ever stared down a toilet bowl full of their bloodstained vomit, chucked it up, and sauntered off to a two-hour seminar on constitutional law.”
A year later, she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. She wrote, “It turned out that the heaviness in my chest was not due to poor digestion, as I had thought, but to an extremely enlarged heart that was bursting out of me.”
As her condition worsened, Ms. Silverstein rose to the top of the waiting list for a donor heart, which she received at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York. It was only after she recovered from the operation that she began to learn the price of coronary artery saving.
“With the medications I took and the frequent infections, I felt really bad at some point almost every day,” Mr. Silverstein said in a phone interview. The powerful medications used to prevent the immune system from rejecting the donor heart as a foreign body had innumerable side effects, he said, adding: “She would routinely carry a bag in case she had to vomit.”
Ms. Silverstein endured treatment for frequent infections, multiple rounds of skin cancer, and a variety of other conditions related to a weakened immune system, her husband said. The couple found themselves settling into endless waiting in New York City hospital emergency rooms to deal with one complication or the other on a monthly basis.
To check for signs of rejection, she had to undergo frequent heart scans where doctors would “pass a catheter through your blood vessels and extract pieces from your heart,” Mr. Silverstein said. “She’s had over 90 of them.”
After “Sick Girl” was published, Ms. Silverstein received a slew of fan letters from other transplant recipients, praising her for her courage in highlighting the strange mixture of joy and misery that can accompany life with a new organ — what she called the “paradox of gratitude.” .
She has also attracted hate mail as an outspoken critic of the healthcare industry. “Transplantation is mired in stagnant science and outdated, inaccurate medicine that is failing patients and organ donors,” she wrote in her recent article for the Times, adding that daily use of transplant medications over years or decades can cause a range of other life-threatening conditions, including These include diabetes, uncontrollable high blood pressure, kidney damage, and cancer.
Despite this destabilizing regime, Ms. Silverstein maintained an active life, returning to finish law school after her first transplant, then interning briefly before giving up the profession to raise her son, Casey, and eventually write.
In the midst of a life of careful organization, including regular, intense exercise and adherence to a strict diet, avoiding even the smallest splash of butter or sip of alcohol, I began playing guitar and writing songs. Once upon a time, in the late 1990s, she appeared as a solo act at the Bottom Line nightclub in Greenwich Village.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Silverstein is survived by a son as well as her father and stepmother, Beverly Shoren. Her sister, Judy Hirsch, passed away in 2020.
When her first donor’s heart succumbed to angiopathies — lesions of the blood vessels that can be caused by certain medications — she had a second transplant in Los Angeles in 2014. Friends from around the country kept a spreadsheet to schedule their visits back-to-back for nearly the course of her operation, her husband said. The hospital stay is three months “so she didn’t have to spend a night alone in the hospital.”
This experience became the basis for “My Glory Was I had such Friends”, which is currently being developed as a limited series by Warner Bros. Pictures. TV and Bad Robot, the media company run by director and producer JJ Abrams and wife, Katie McGrath, Mr. Silverstein said.
But for one, none of her human relationships were quite so intimate as the one she had attached to the roughly eight-ounce bundle of someone else’s muscle pulsating below her ribcage.
“On our daily walks, when that ’70s rock yacht playlist moves every step,” she wrote in an article for The Times, “this heart from a 13-year-old donor erupts through my body with a beat.” Oh Pooh Rent – and we laugh together, and accelerate our pace to a run.