Nightwires From The Edge Of Life

I am sure that Alan Kalmanoff had many sleepless nights determining how to package this book. It is his life story, yet it is so much more. It gives us an inside look at human relationships in times of stress. Through the use of email transcripts we get to meet an incredibly brave man and the people he calls family and friends.

I think I’ll quote from the last chapter, to me, it sums up a very complex story quite well:

Each life is worth living, there can be no question, but we cannot explain any one life, or life as a whole

In fact I will go further and quote the very last sentence:

I see wealth as time to live, and I see joy in the perspective that death offers life

Second Ticket To The Dance definitely makes it to my top ten list for 2009. The title alone tells the story. Alan Kalmanoff is the recipient of a heart transplant, a second lease on life. It was less than 50 years ago that Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful one, for those of you that are fixated in facts, the date was 3rd December, 1967.

The medical world has changed a great deal in the intervening decades, but a heart transplant in still a very serious procedure, and the outcome often a huge unknown.

Alan Kalmanoff is a survivor, and it is own story that we get to understand in Second Ticket To The Dance. He knew that his heart was failing, little by little, the writing was on the wall. But, this is a man that does not give up without a fight! Aster 20 years of living with heart problems it was becoming increasingly evident that the end was drawing ever closer.

The chances of a transplant in the US seemed slim, people were quoting a two to three year wait, these were years that Alan Kalmanoff did not have. He actually was about to board a plane to try his luck in another country when his wife called him, a heart had been found, a perfect match.

Second Ticket To The Dance is not really just one book, it falls into three very distinct, and very moving arenas. His life prior, his life post the transplant, and finally his relationship with the donor’s family. It is not told through a single voice, it is told through many. Alan Kalmanoff has used his email trail to facilitate the story. He started a small news group that was called Nightwires. Through this group he revealed his deepest, darkest moments.

Nightwires grew, Nightwires became a vibrant toolm in total his support grout consisted of 29 friends and family. Although Alan might argue the fact, and indeed it will be a subject of discussion when I interview him, I believe it was the support that he garnered from Nightwires that saw him through the ordeal.

A second chance at life comes at a steep price. A price steeper than many people would want to afford. Oh this has nothing, or at least little to do with money, it is all about lifestyle. As one surgeon told hin, the hard part is not the procedure, the hard part is the recovery. Alan Kalmanoff has adopted a very unique style in crafting this book most of the story is told through emails, both from and to him. Alan also adds some brief commentary explaining some of the areas in greater depth. What I walked away with having read this book was an awe of how much punishment a human being can take, and Alan’s transplant was without ‘complications’, there were no signs of rejection, in fact his was a text book case.

All of this suffering was endured with a sense of good humor as this email reveals:

Update: had annual exam and heart is doing great: had two biopsies for a thyroid and other small nodule, both benign; had 3 infected molars yanked, 50 stitches and a few tough days to remind me of my good fortune

Alan Kalmanoff also explores a very murky world, he has the heart of a 21 year old, but who was this donor? The final part of the book introduces us to the parents of the young man who died. It is fascinating to watch a relationship between strangers form and gel into friendship.

This book is a fabulous read and I can not recommend it enough. Oh, and a little piece of trivia for you all the photo used on the front cover was taken by Barbara Cromwell, the mother of Lucas Cromwell the donor.

To order your copy of Second Ticket To The Dance click on the cover art above.

Simon Barrett

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