9/11 a time for celebration for Vacaville woman


Twenty-three-year-old Jennifer Silva, of Vacaville, underwent a heart transplant as a teenager on Sept. 11, 2001. Today, she is sharing her remarkable story of survival in Palo Alto.

Now a healthy young woman, Silva clung to life at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital 10 years ago, where she was one of only a handful of people in the country to receive an organ transplant that fateful day, hospital officials said.

At 13, Silva found herself battling unusual symptoms -- she was exhausted, and had trouble eating or even lying down. Doctors soon diagnosed the teen with dilated cardiomyopathy.

"My entire world just crashed," Silva's mother, Naomi Gunther, said in a statement. "Three days before she went into the hospital she was bungee jumping. The diagnosis was a total shock."

Silva was then transferred to Packard Children's Hospital, the only Northern California hospital that performs pediatric heart transplants, and was placed on the transplant list.

On the morning of Sept. 11, as Silva's parents first learned of the terrorist attacks, nurses informed them that a heart match had been found in San Francisco.

The surgery went well and Silva has gone on to become a thriving young woman.

These days, Silva says she considers Sept. 11 her second birthday, according to hospital officials. She plans to spend this Sunday celebrating with her family, close friends, boyfriend and her dog.

Silva and her family planned to hold a news conference with transplant surgeon Bruce Reitz, MD, and transplant social worker Mary Burge at the hospital late this morning.

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