#444: Didn’t Kick the Bucket Day

February 27th, 2015

My friend Joann spent two-and-a-half months eating dessert first.

She had a sickly, six-and-a-half month pregnancy that culminated in a fight with her ex over sandwiches and an appointment for one of those shots you need when your baby is a different blood type than you are.

At the appointment, they told her she wasn’t going anywhere. They told her to get some tests.

She didn’t realize until later that the kind nurse who stayed with her as she waddled to the tests wasn’t doing it out of kindness, but medical orders.

“I would have been dead in 24 hours,” she said, taking a long drag of a novelty cocktail called “Sweet, But Not Too Sweet.”

My friend Joann says “Didn’t Kick the Bucket Day” is more important to her than her birthday.

It is a birthday, just not hers. It’s the birthday of her oldest son Theo, now 6. Co-opting a child’s special day is not in Joann’s wheelhouse, so she invited her friends out for fancy cocktails and fancy dinner and fancy dessert — always have dessert, she says — two days after.

So we swilled the cocktails and listened to the story as her doctor friend Amanda looked on, adding angry commentary of what the medicos six years earlier missed.

As cocktails and jargon were involved, I only caught details of the story, words meant for later googling and horrified shudders. Pre-eclampsia. A syndrome called HELLP. Blood pressure of 150 over 100 and doctors rushing a scared, 29-year-old woman with failed liver and failing kidneys into surgery, hoping they could C-section a little boy into the world before his mother’s platelet count hit 50.

“The only cure is birth,” Joann said. “They had to cut me open and get the baby out before I bled out.”

As this story started with novelty drinks and a happy night out at a downtown speakeasy with a burlesque show and a whiskey list longer and more inviting than the works of Proust, we can glean no one died.

My friend Joann is alive. Her son is alive and even got a brother a few years later.

Her son was two pounds when he was born.

And Joann ate dessert first for two-and-a-half months.

She bounced back after the surgery, after a routine doctor’s appointment happened to come the day she would have died in her sleep. She has friends and family, a liver that now allows novelty drinks, and two wonderful boys.

My friend Joann gets a look on her face she thinks no one catches. Amanda and I talked about it.

It’s the look of a woman who spent two-and-a-half months visiting an infant in the hospital, watching this little man fight for life locked in a sterile box under a heat lamp. It’s the look of a woman who laughs and jokes and chit-chat-chatters about this being her first “Didn’t Kick the Bucket Day” that wasn’t just grabbing a dessert by herself and claiming an extra-long hug from the kiddo.

It’s the look of a woman who stared death in the face and got a child and chocolate cupcake out of the deal.

My friend Joann wanted to be mentioned in the blog. She’s been declaring it as fact for a week, announcing to me it was going to happen someday. She’s sort of like that. It works for her.

So here’s my message for you, Joann who did not die:


Sing. Hug the boys. Bring friends to bars. Flip your long hair for cute men and know you got more game than Milton Bradley.


And eat dessert first.

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You are currently reading #444: Didn’t Kick the Bucket Day by Paul Dailing at 1,001 Chicago Afternoons.

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