Heart transplant survivor credits friends with saving her life

Amy Silverstein's new memoir, "My Glory Was I Had Such Friends," details the lengths a group of nine women went to help Silverstein as she awaited her life-saving surgery.
4:20 | 07/07/17

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Transcript for Heart transplant survivor credits friends with saving her life
We'll turn to a "Gma" health alert. How the power of friendship could boost your medical recovery. ABC's Paula Faris sat down with one woman who says her friends kept her alive when she was waiting for a new heart. Reporter: Amy silversteen's faying heart had her counting down the days until her suffering could end. I had a big number, significant day, five day, four days. Reporter: Luckily her deadline came and went thanks to a brand-new heart and an unexpected source of healing. The power of friendship. And now in silverseen's new memoir "My glory was I had such friends" she explains how nine of her closest friends saved her life while she waited for a heart transplant flying across the country to her California hospital room. Caring for her, laughing with her, even divvying up time on a spreadsheet making sure she never spent a moment alone. You guys were willing to do pretty much anything to get her through, rubbing her feet. Rubbing her back. Massaging her, setting up little spas in the hospital room. Yes. We improvised. It's a gift for us in certain way to be able to show up for her. Did you think that there was a point that she wasn't going to get a heart and you were going to have to say good-bye to your friend if that wa a very real possibility. Absolutely. Had to reckon with the possibility that we were leaving and we might not see Amy again and might not come through. Reporter: Amy was 50 years old at the time of the transplant in 2014. But this wasn't the first time her heart had failed her. You had your first heart transplant at 25. Well, it came on very suddenly. I was in law school and I found it hard to walk to class and went to the doctor and they under out I was in heart failure. The doctor said that after the transplant if I got an organ I would live maybe ten years at best. Reporter: But ten years passed and then 20. Amy surpassed all odds by living with her first donor heart for 26 years. And now another three with her second donor heart. Hi, everyone. Reporter: Able to walk down the hospital hallway just one day after surgery. We were at a gathering about a year after this heart transplant and I looked over and saw Amy dancing with like so much color in her face. It stopped me in my tracks and I started to cry. We never could have imagined that she would feel that good, look that good and be the healthiest she'd been in her entire life. Reporter: Amy says of all of her heart, this one is different. I was told that this young girl who I know nothing really about but she was an athlete and I -- she makes me want to run and I can feel her as I run. She gave you new life. She gave me new life. I mean, complete -- not just life, but the life I never imagined that I would ever feel this well. Reporter: For "Good morning America," Paula Faris, ABC news, New York. Thanks to Paula with that. Here is Dr. Jen Ashton. What a feel-good story. Absolutely. And the medical benefits behind friendship are real. Yeah, this isn't just touchy Feely fluff. Data supports people who have strong social connectiveness do better whether that's hands-on healing, hugging, hand holding or just being present with someone. It makes a big difference go so many people don't know how to approach someone who is ill. What do you suggest? I think the first key for the person providing that support is don't feel like you have to be on all the time. Sometimes the best support you can give is just sitting with a person. I think you should be, you know, creative, think outside the box, if you will. Maybe it's bringing a tailgate party inside or a spa inside to someone and, of course, if you're really at a loss, ask the hospal social workers for licensed clinical social workers how to support someone. This is what they do, professionally for a living so they're a great resource. Hard for a lot of patients to accept or ask for help. Oh it's so hard and if you're the one receiving that help, I think there are a couple of guideline, first of all your rest is key. So, you know, you have to remember when you're getting these visitors, if you're tired you need to say, look, I need to shut my eyes for a little bit. You have to feed your body as well as your spirit and your soul so when you're visiting with someone and talking you can literally forget to eat and that's really important. Lastly don't be afraid to speak up. If you're the one receiving the support, don't feel like you can't say, I know you're trying to help but this is what I need. It's really the communication. It's a two-way path but it's so important and that was an amazing example of it. Sure was. Jen Ashton, thanks very much.

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