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My Glory Was I Had Such Friends by Amy…

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends

by Amy Silverstein

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"Think where man's glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was that I had such friends."

In 1988 when she was 25 years old, Amy Silverstein suffered sudden heart failure, and she received a heart transplant, which usually provide relief for 10-11 years. When this memoir opens, it is 25 years later, and Amy has lived a full and rich life, happily married with a son in college. Although she has suffered ups and downs over the years, including a myriad of health problems arising from the transplant and the drugs she must take to prevent rejection, most recently cancer requiring a double mastectomy, on the whole Amy feels that her life has been good.

Repeat transplants are apparently much trickier and much more complicated than initial transplants, and Amy's initial transplant team in New York does not feel qualified to perform a repeat transplant on Amy. Thus Amy must go to California, where the doctors are more experienced in such repeat transplants, to await a second heart.

Since she will be away from home (although fortunately her husband will be able to accompany her and work from California, he will not be able to be with her full time), a group of 9 of Amy's friends (Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann and Jane) have agreed to rotate so that there is always at least one of them with her as she awaits her new heart. Her friends share her despair at her deteriorating health and the pain she endures, but they also get silly with her and bring laughter and joy.

This was a very moving memoir. Amy is very candid about her thought processes in deciding whether to go through with a second transplant now that she is fully aware of the downsides and continuing pain and suffering that can be experienced despite having a successful medical outcome. She is also very open about her deteriorating health condition as she awaits a new heart--she doesn't sugar-coat her suffering, or paint herself as a Pollyanna, and is very honest about her mental as well as her physical condition.

Two criticisms I have, maybe neither of which is any of my business. First, I couldn't understand how out of the loop she and her husband kept their son. Although he was still in college, he was an adult, yet he seemed to have been mostly uninformed about how near death his mother actually was, and remained in Ohio while she was in the hospital in California. Maybe there were visits, but I don't recall them.

Second, the book ends when the new heart is found. It goes into great detail about the period of waiting, but there is no information about the operation itself or the recovery period. We know she survived, because she wrote the book, but we don't learn anything about the operation or what she went through during recovery.

Still, this was a very moving and emotional, as well as informative, story.

3 1/2 star ( )
  arubabookwoman | Dec 18, 2017 |
Are you an organ donor? I am. In fact, I ticked that box on my license registration without thinking much about it. When I encouraged my children to do the same, I did think a little more about it (these are my kids, after all!), hoping against hope that I would never have to face a situation where this decision came into play. As you can see, all of my admittedly slight thinking about it focused on the tragic, not on the equally important miraculous, life giving aspects of organ donation. For the sick and dying person waiting for a healthy organ, finally getting a match is an amazing thing indeed. But that’s not the end of the story at all; it’s not even the beginning. The wait for a donor organ be emotionally and physically brutal but life afterwards isn’t easy and worry free either. Amy Silverstein’s memoir of her second heart transplant, twenty-five years after her first, is an honest and moving look at all of the factors, good, bad, and everything in between, that she faced, with the help of her husband and her dearest friends, as she waited again for a heart to become available. It is a celebration of life, its fragility and its strength, and of the people who make up that life and indeed make it worth holding onto.

At the age of fifty, Amy Silverstein’s twenty-five year old transplanted heart started to fail from the development of vasculopathy, a common and deadly problem with transplanted hearts. Silverstein had long since survived the 10 years that she was initially told she’d have with her new heart and in that time she’d not only married and raised her son but she’d also faced many medical emergencies related to her transplant and undergone a double mastectomy for breast cancer. Silverstein knew firsthand that a retransplant would not be easy or mean that she would be cured forever and so she agonized over whether or not to go ahead and get on the list for a new heart, what that would mean to her emotionally and physically, and how her decision would impact her husband and her close friends. Once she decided to hope for retransplant, she and husband Scott moved to California to be closer to Cedars-Sinai for when a heart became available. During the months that Silverstein would wait, her friends from all stages of her life rallied around her. Nine women came out to stay with her on a rotating basis, to try and help her cope with everything and to give Scott a tiny break from the intensity and sleep deprivation. As they did this, Silverstein also learned a lot about each of the women, about her friendship with them, about herself, and about love and selflessness in new and deeper ways.

The memoir is self-reflective and emotional and Silverstein doesn’t whitewash the parts where her fear and anger get the better of her. She gives the reader intimate access into what makes her tick and how she makes decisions but also shares where her blunt approach is unfair to those around her and how, as the days and months tick past, she considers her impact on others, confronting her husband’s admonition to think about how she wants people to remember her in both the short term and for all time. Her fierce gratitude to those who shared her journey to a new heart shines through the pages of this unusual celebration of friendship. While Silverstein’s story is certainly medically interesting, it is the strong and continued support of those friends who gave up so much of themselves and their time to be fully present there with her, to make sure she was never alone, that make this memoir so beautiful and inspiring. Truly for Amy Silverstein, as the quote from Yeats (and the source of the title) says, “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends.” ( )
  whitreidtan | Jul 5, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0062457462, Hardcover)

In this moving memoir about the power of friendship and the resilience of the human spirit, Amy Silverstein tells the story of the extraordinary group of women who supported her as she waited on the precipice for a life-saving heart transplant.

Nearly twenty-six years after receiving her first heart transplant, Amy Silverstein’s donor heart plummeted into failure. If she wanted to live, she had to take on the grueling quest for a new heart—immediately.

A shot at survival meant uprooting her life and moving across the country to California. When her friends heard of her plans, there was only one reaction: “I’m there.” Nine remarkable women—Joy, Jill, Leja, Jody, Lauren, Robin, Valerie, Ann, and Jane—put demanding jobs and pressing family obligations on hold to fly across the country and be by Amy’s side. Creating a calendar spreadsheet, the women—some of them strangers to one another—passed the baton of friendship, one to the next, and headed straight and strong into the battle to help save Amy’s life.

Empowered by the kind of empathy that can only grow with age, these women, each knowing Amy from different stages of her life, banded together to provide her with something that medicine alone could not.  Sleeping on a cot beside her bed, they rubbed her back and feet when the pain was unbearable, adorned her room with death-distracting decorations, and engaged in their “best talks ever.”  They saw the true measure of their friend’s strength, and they each responded in kind.

My Glory Was I Had Such Friends is a tribute to these women and the intense hours they spent together—hours of heightened emotion and self-awareness, where everything was laid bare. Candid and heartrending, this once-in-a-lifetime story of connection and empathy is a powerful reminder of the ultimate importance of “showing up” for those we love.

(retrieved from Amazon Wed, 22 Mar 2017 20:56:23 -0400)

Memoirist Amy Silverstein tells the story of an extraordinary group of women who surrounded and supported her through the long, emotional fight to stay alive as she waited for her second heart transplant in twenty-five years.

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