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 ….”

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This article has 300 comments.

pinkdaisy said...
on Jan. 18 2011 at 3:21 pm
pinkdaisy, Broadlands, Virginia
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
WOW!  this is truly an amazing story.  I don't usually comment on...well, anything, but this deserves it for sure.  I had a tiny tear in my eye when I read this.  This is an amazing story.  Please keep writing!

StarWorks said...
on Jan. 18 2011 at 8:12 am
StarWorks, A, Other
0 articles 0 photos 22 comments

All I can say is....


on Jan. 18 2011 at 1:29 am
heryearningloveforhatred GOLD, Wyckoff, New Jersey
15 articles 0 photos 6 comments
This was absolutely heartbreaking in the most beautiful, spectacular, and refreshing of ways. I was so moved by this piece to the point of tears--I could nearly feel what was being felt in the story. The part about the mother was an unexpected element that I loved. Tearjerking. The composition of this piece is nothing short of phenomenal. Thank you for posting this. 

on Dec. 27 2010 at 11:50 pm
alexandria lavoie BRONZE, Bushkill, Pennsylvania
3 articles 0 photos 4 comments
That was really amazing. you're a an excellent writer! I was ensnared through out the whole thing. I just couldn't stop reading! Great job(:

on Dec. 27 2010 at 6:51 pm
meganwagner21 PLATINUM, Old Bridge, New Jersey
42 articles 0 photos 139 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Sometimes good things have to fall apart so better things can fall together." -Marilyn Monroe
"Nobody can go back and make a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending." -Maria Robinson

this is amazing. it wuz relly captivating. im surprised i liked it so much, i relly hate doctor shows, they scare me but this wuz guddd.

on Dec. 27 2010 at 6:10 pm
dolphin13 BRONZE, North St. Paul, Minnesota
1 article 0 photos 125 comments
Wow! This is so amazing! I never really thought about from the doctor's perspective. Very good! Keep writing1

on Dec. 27 2010 at 10:19 am
buzzlikebea GOLD, Fitchburg, Wisconsin
10 articles 0 photos 28 comments

Favorite Quote:
Shoot for the moon. For, even if you miss, you'll still land amongst the stars.

My eyes didn't leave the screen once. great work.

on Dec. 27 2010 at 8:07 am
niko_timmy BRONZE, ---, Michigan
1 article 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
the Battle of the Sexes with never be over, there's too much fraternizing with the enemy.

oh my god, this is so good! i love to watch doctor shows on TV so it's amazing to see what its like in their heads when this sort of thing happens. great job, keep writing!

on Dec. 27 2010 at 7:47 am
13akellermeier GOLD, Bowling Green, Ohio
12 articles 0 photos 15 comments

Favorite Quote:
"life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get."

im so sorry to hear that xMeadowx   :(

on Dec. 24 2010 at 11:06 pm
MangaArtist BRONZE, Espanola, New Mexico
3 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure." ~ Mark Twain.

Nice use of second person! This was fabulous! Keep writing!

on Dec. 16 2010 at 6:14 am
amalie PLATINUM, Binghamton, New York
43 articles 0 photos 33 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Stop existing and stop living"- Michael Jackson ("Heal the World")

wooooow. Inpressive! really like it, really like the truth of it. Very well written.

KimiRose GOLD said...
on Dec. 10 2010 at 11:33 am
KimiRose GOLD, Harrogate, Other
14 articles 0 photos 9 comments
WOW this is amazing and so moving. Love the use of third person - it's something I've always wanted to try but I've never been sure how to do it right. Your story is the perfect example of how to do it really well.

on Dec. 6 2010 at 9:33 am
BurningRose SILVER, New Fairfield, Connecticut
6 articles 0 photos 24 comments

Favorite Quote:
I dunno.

oh my god...that was actually the best thing i have ever read in my lief <33 great!

on Dec. 5 2010 at 4:56 pm
o...my...gosh this is like...amazing. its like im the doctor in the story i love how you use YOU intead of SHE or ME thats 2nd person right? KEEP WRITING

on Dec. 5 2010 at 2:06 pm
eileentotheleft BRONZE, Los Alamos, New Mexico
4 articles 0 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Perfectly perfect is fine (or so the story goes), but nature left all on her own will make the perfect rose." -Persnickity

Amazing creativity.

on Dec. 5 2010 at 11:43 am
OriginalCarbonation GOLD, Naperville, Illinois
11 articles 0 photos 102 comments

Favorite Quote:
dream as if you'll live forever
live as if you'll die tomorrow

oh lord. wow.

Chanchie GOLD said...
on Dec. 5 2010 at 6:41 am
Chanchie GOLD, Trivandrum, Other
17 articles 4 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
A writer who writes without zest, without gusto, without fun, without love is only half a writer.
-Ray Bradbury

heart touching... :')

Lizette SILVER said...
on Nov. 22 2010 at 1:36 pm
Lizette SILVER, Delphos, Ohio
5 articles 0 photos 47 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everyone is entitled to be stupid. But some people abuse the privlidge!


That was really...deep. Made me want to cry.


Samaiya SILVER said...
on Nov. 13 2010 at 11:41 pm
Samaiya SILVER, Medellin, Other
7 articles 0 photos 9 comments
  Oh, wow.

irtfaz said...
on Nov. 13 2010 at 10:34 pm
irtfaz, Brentwood, Tennessee
0 articles 0 photos 14 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Everything in this room, everything you see is eatable. Even I myself am eatable, but that, children, is called cannibalism, and is frowned upon in most societies."

Awesome writing. I especially liked how you number the deaths... and good job with second person; only a few people are able to pull that off really well, but you did a good job :)

(The baby death made me sad.)