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Sick Girl Paperback – October 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Silverstein's memoir offers a rare glimpse at life as an organ-transplant recipient. She was a young law student when the first signs of a deadly virus in her heart appeared. When her doctor said she merely needed to keep her stress in check and add salt to her diet, she happily complied. At 25, after several months of terrifying symptoms and misdiagnoses, she received a heart transplant. Like all organ recipients, to prevent her body from rejecting her new heart, she depends on high doses of immunosuppressants—bitter poison that leaves her nauseous, trembling, aching, and highly vulnerable to infection—for the rest of her life, which was only expected to last another 10 years. To better her chances, she heeded her doctors' advice, sacrificing everything from coffee to alcohol to pregnancy. Still, it seemed that the best she could hope for was the illusion of a normal life, so she kept her body's punishing blows from her friends, her adopted son and at times even from her loving husband, her ever-confident coach through years of devastating illness. [T]o make myself 'normal' again would be the most extraordinary feat that I would never quite accomplish she writes. Now, more than 17 years after her transplant, Silverstein reflects on the often misunderstood journey through the torments of being saved in a stirring story of survival and unyielding love. (Oct.)
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"Truly compelling, Sick Girl sucked me in from the get-go. Amy Silverstein's story is amazing and inspiring."
"Spectacular ... Heart transplant patients live along the jagged edges of the abyss that most mortals fear. By bravely peeking over the edge, Amy Silverstein shares with us the brutal reality of being a 'survivor.'"
"Silverstein is an inspired storyteller. Her engaging language and sharp insight make Sick Girl both compelling and moving. Few of us undergo a heart transplant at twenty-four, but we can recognize our own stories in this incisive, unflinching look at life, love, and extraordinary courage."
"Amy Silverstein is not an easy patient, with good reason. She has lived nineteen long years with a transplanted heart, much longer than any doctor could have predicted. And she has, arguably, done more with a transplanted heart than anyone else, including the publication of this remarkable book. It documents her fears, frustrations, anger, and perseverance. She recognizes that the world expects a simpering bundle of gratitude. In her compelling memoir, Sick Girl, Amy delivers a searing insight into the battle to stay alive. And yet, there is also love and humor, and a radiant courage."
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Yet I got tired of her anger. Anger at her friends and her husband for not understanding how she felt. How could they? Anger at her doctors because they couldn't do more and couldn't always hold her hand. Her expectations of people in the medical field are as unfair as she claims their expectations of her as a transplant patient. They have lives, families, troubles of their own. They deal with illness, death and heartache daily. Can they always meet her need for comfort, the right words, etc. Probably not. They would burn out quickly. Only God can supply this need Amy and all of us have when we come face to face with the unthinkable. And Amy doesn't seem to believe in God.. I wish she did.
She states from the outset that she's not the grateful patient so many people think she should be.
People who have been fortunate to not have to deal with major health care issues DON'T know what it's like...Amy writes a personally revealing book and not only expresses her anger and frustration...she also illustrates why...
...people get frustrated with their doctors (docs and health care professionals assume patients know a lot more than they do...and, for the most part, aren't getting paid to educate patients -- unfortunately!
What's particularly illustrative was toward the later part of the book where she starts talking about doctors "punting"...what she doesn't address, and which is particularly germaine in our costly health care system is just how much each of these specialists are getting paid to NOT KNOW. It's also surprising there isn't more cross-specialist consultation going on...which would ease the patient frustration as well as reduce unnecessary health care expenditures...
What's clear is, Amy comes from an upper middle class (at the very least) family and background...there's no mention of the actual costs of her health care (either what's paid by insurance, or what's not covered)...which suggests she's been most fortunate in that health care concern...
...if she'd have that concern in addition, she would likely have been at least twice as angry.
As a former health care practitioner, and one very concerned about the ongoing healthcare debates in the U.S., I found this an excellent addition to the volumes of "patient" literature -- helpful for health care practitioners in having a better understanding why their patients may not be ebullient fountains fo gratitude.
To those who feel the author complains too much - that includes me, at times - please keep in mind her age at the time of diagnosis, and how it must have felt to have your life taken from you before you really had a chance to live it completely care free.