Time of Death | Teen Ink

Time of Death MAG

January 15, 2009
By Grace Hoo Hoo BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Grace Hoo Hoo BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The first death on your watch isn’t even your fault. You’re just one of the many interns who rush to the bedside when the code is called, peering at the doctors crowding around. As the patient gasps and chokes, you too gasp and choke as each electric shock blasts through the body. The doctors are grim-faced but determined; you hopelessly wonder why they even bother. Again and again the voltage is cranked up, but thunderbolts can only do so much.

The doctor holding the paddles slowly turns away from the flaccid flesh and another quietly asks, “Time of death?” You back away, feeling as if the defibrillator was really meant for you as your heart pounds out its own furious pace. A devastated mother takes your wrist. “Time of death?” she whispers, mis­taking you for a doctor, someone who tried his best to resuscitate her darling daughter, someone who knew what he was doing, someone with guts enough to challenge death. Not a first-year intern who never could remember which number was the systolic for blood pressure, not someone who didn’t even dare to take blood sugar levels.

“I’m so sorry for your loss,” you blurt. “You’ll be able to talk to the doctors inside …,” you mumble, patting the trembling hand. She bites her lip and nods, letting go of the scrubs that you shouldn’t be wearing, the scrubs reserved for those who can save lives, not for those who don’t even know how to gently break death to a loved one.

The third death is similar, only this time you’ve been dragged along for scut work. You’re the one ramming your hands into the sternum, trying to force the fluttering heartbeat into your rhythm. You’re the one leaping out of the way of the defib paddles, jumping back to start compressions again. The patient bottoms out, but after the paddles thunder a third time, you can feel the thump of the heart, tangoing with yours as you collapse against a chair, arms quivering with strain. You shudder with relief. You brought him back. You saved him. You.

The eighteen death is the hardest. That little baby in neo-natal care should never have been forced to live on machines. Each breath is a struggle, and the medications are flowing in a poisonous concentration for such a small body, yet the parents insist on continuing the farce of life. They’re unwilling to bear any grief while their baby boy wheezes and thrashes weakly, seeking comfort but receiving only the hard embrace of a hospital cradle and the groan of machines.

The mother shrieks, “He’s blue! Do something!” After you reach the crib and despair at the readouts, you motion the code team away and beckon to the mother and father.

“The best thing for him is to take him off the machines,” you say.

The dad glares. “You want to kill him.”

They don’t understand the torture they have put him through. “If he even survives a year, he will be severely physically and mentally disabled. For life,” I persist.

The mother moans, “He’s blue! I don’t care. Just save him! Now!”

You nod at the code team, maneuvering yourselves around the tiny crib and pulling off the oxygen mask, trying to fit your large palms against the flimsy baby with his face scrunched up in a silent wail. The heart drugs aren’t having any effect due to the amount of medication already flowing through his body.

“Use the shocker!” the mother wails.

“We can’t!” you snarl, trying to give compressions to a weak chest and an even weaker malformed heart. “Your baby is too small and his heart is deformed! If we do, we’ll kill him!”

The code leader shakes his head. “Time of death ….”


“3:36 p.m.”

The thirty-third death is the best death. You’re the one in charge. If a code is called, you will wield the paddles, call out “Clear!” You have the final say on time of death if it occurs. You won’t let those words pass your lips.

But she smiles at you through her pure white hair. “I’m ready to leave. Are you ready to let me go?”

You sob, throw down the clipboard. “No, Mom! I don’t want you to.”

She still wears the tender smile of years past as her body wastes away and shrivels to a mere fraction of her vitality. “But it’s necessary. I need you to. And you know it.”

“Mom ….”

And she brushes her hand against yours, squeezing it once before closing her eyes. “You’re ready.”

You kiss her cooling cheek then note: “Time of death: 9:12 a.m., Thursday, April 24 ….”

Similar Articles


This article has 300 comments.

on Jul. 7 2009 at 12:15 am
Lauren Wright BRONZE, Wildwood, Missouri
4 articles 2 photos 8 comments
I am so sad. Your writing really moved me. Keep writing!

on Jul. 6 2009 at 1:30 am
ali8jane BRONZE, DeSoto, Texas
4 articles 0 photos 17 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am the author of my life. Unfortunately, I'm writing with this pen made of my own bone, it's ink my blood; and I can't erase my mistakes.

oh wow. that was absolutely amazing! good work

on Jun. 29 2009 at 7:04 pm
Nice!:)This is a really moving story. i love that it's told from the doctor's point of view. I've never seen that before

Zero_K DIAMOND said...
on Jun. 28 2009 at 12:44 am
Zero_K DIAMOND, Moosic, Pennsylvania
83 articles 0 photos 435 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life's no fun if you're not insane, otherwise you grow up to be an accountant." -Moi

This is beautiful and sad. I think the parents of that baby are selfish to let that baby suffer, but I think the saddest is when he has to stop himself from saving his own mother. It makes me want to cry. Bravo!


on Jun. 23 2009 at 2:18 am
AudienceofOne BRONZE, Alexandria, Virginia
3 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
I write. Though whether that helps me keep my sanity or makes me lose it I shall never know.

This story is fantastic. Your narrative is so very personal and emotional. In short, it is excellent. This story is so plausible and heartbreaking, it makes a vivid picture in my mind. You have a very professional style.

Nalakitty01 said...
on Jun. 19 2009 at 1:03 am
I do agree that the ending seemed just a teensy bit rushed, but other than that it was a very touching, dramatic story. I like your detail and I actually started to get sad, especially for the baby. Excellent job. Keep up the good work :D

on Jun. 18 2009 at 6:45 pm
Dandelion PLATINUM, Franklin, Massachusetts
20 articles 8 photos 173 comments
This hooked me from the first sentence.

RMSW11 BRONZE said...
on Jun. 18 2009 at 3:39 pm
RMSW11 BRONZE, LaFollette, Tennessee
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
I've read several comments here that say you left out too much detail. In my opinion, what you did here works beautifully. You wrote it in second person, so it would make sense to not flesh it out with detail. It gives the reader more room to really get inside the character.


hope jackson said...
on Jun. 11 2009 at 7:57 pm
hope jackson, Stanwood, Washington
0 articles 1 photo 3 comments
this was really good and touching.

on Jun. 11 2009 at 3:05 pm
Katelyn Radtke BRONZE, East Meadow, New York
1 article 0 photos 1 comment
Really interesting :)

on Jun. 4 2009 at 10:00 pm
nature-elf PLATINUM, Ramsey, New Jersey
42 articles 0 photos 57 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If love is shelter, I'll walk in the rain." -Anonymous

I think the piece plot is excellent. However, it's too rushed, like you just want the ending. If you put in more detail, more adventure and heartfelt feelings, then it'll be a masterpiece. But keep going! I like it.

on Jun. 4 2009 at 9:43 pm
I think this story has lots of potential. The ending could have been a bit stronger, in my opinion. Also, telling the story in second person took away the "effect." This isn't my story, this is your story. Telling the story in first person would make it more personal.

I also think if you added more details on each of the deaths that the main character faces, we (the readers) would understand the character more. That way when the character"s mother dies, we can feel for him/her.

Good job and keep up the good work! :)

Clawdead said...
on Jun. 4 2009 at 6:01 pm
Clawdead, Oceanside, California
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This is simply amazing.

on Jun. 4 2009 at 5:23 pm
xshannxthemanx BRONZE, Anderson, Texas
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
This piece has tremendous potential, I have to say. Just loosen up your grip, and let your words flow a bit more freely, and it will become a masterpiece, rather than just a piece. I shake your hand in admiration, if only I could conjure emotions within my writing as you have done here.

Brandi Kim said...
on Jun. 4 2009 at 3:39 pm
Brandi Kim, Sanford, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 20 comments

on Jun. 2 2009 at 1:32 pm
xxjosiexx143 SILVER, Lexington Twp., Maine
9 articles 6 photos 23 comments
Good story. It's kinda depressing though...

Rae said...
on Jun. 2 2009 at 12:01 am
Hmm. I'm afraid that I didn't like this very much. Your dialogue felt very trite and stiff; it simply was not very believable. I also didn't like the ending because it felt a bit rushed and awkward. It struck me as largely out of place, as the majority of the piece wasn't half-bad. But when I got to that, I was sort of derailed. The whole voice you had going for you at the beginning slipped away and, well, I don't think it was the best closing you could have pulled off.

However, I like how you used a second person point of view to present the idea. It was pretty effective.

on Jun. 2 2009 at 12:01 am
JustAbbi SILVER, Maplewood, Minnesota
7 articles 0 photos 7 comments
ohhhh my gosh great. keep it up.

on Jun. 1 2009 at 11:28 pm
Love_Kills_the_Blind PLATINUM, Fort Collins, Colorado
23 articles 5 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Never regret anything, at one point its exactly what you wanted."

This was an amazing piece...I am amazed!!! Great writing keep it up!

on Jun. 1 2009 at 9:39 pm
volleygirl6 SILVER, Lake Oswego, Oregon
5 articles 0 photos 12 comments
Wow! that was really amazing! It took my breath away! The depth of understanding you show is remarkable, keep writing!