Time of Death This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 15, 2009
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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 ….”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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forkul said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 2:34 pm
I loved this! It was beautiful and made me want to cry! ;)
RaisedByRobots said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 10:10 am
That was amazing. enough said.
RaisedByRobots replied...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 10:11 am
By the way i gave it five stars.
BeautyFromPain said...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 6:31 pm
Yup, I know the feeling. I hate when it happens, but it's worth it.
Curly_Sue said...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 6:29 pm
this is really good and really sad. good job. it takes a gift to write something like this.
Lovely_Lauren said...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 10:53 am
Seriously... that made me cry. This piece is like my favorite. You totally have a gift for writing... (: 
Quowl said...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 9:34 am
That was amazing.
skyblue95 said...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 7:18 am
I know you've heard it a million times on this one webpage, but that was truly and utterly amazing. I loved this piece. Obviously you have a passion and a talent for writing. I would appreciate it if you could look over some of my stuff and give any comments/ratings you can to help me improve. Thanks and keep writing!
RainOnMyWindowpane This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 20, 2010 at 10:00 pm
This peace was wonderful, sad, but wonderful.
Writer4Life_21 said...
Oct. 3, 2010 at 5:55 pm
This is a very interesting/genius work. Keep writing, I will definatly keep reading.
passion.fable14 said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 8:46 pm
Ohmigosh this was amazing!!!! Are you going to write more? please write more!!!
-DreamForever- said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm
Beautifully written. So so sad. Keep writing! 
reg93 said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 6:03 pm
That was amazing. You have skills and know how to write something truelly beautiful. This is sad yet very very touching
DreamingOutLoud This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 30, 2010 at 11:12 am
That was....beautiful.
RainyWriter This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Sept. 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm

Loved it! Sooo much! Most of us make the mistake of loading on meaningless details when sometimes the best stories are the simplest, the simplest that make you think without hurting your head over details. Sometimes it doesn't matter what the mother or father of that dying baby looks like, it doesn't matter what the narrator looks like.

Loved the part at the end with the mother. Was not expecting that. The time of death part was just beautiful.

Amazing. You should totally... (more »)

LASwan said...
Sept. 8, 2010 at 4:30 pm
That is spectuacular. Truly.
DreamInspired said...
Aug. 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm
Beautiful, moving. Where did you get the inspiration to write this? was this you? If it is to personal you do not need to answer but amazing writing. Pure heart. Keep writing
Madison2197 said...
Aug. 17, 2010 at 6:35 pm
It's soooo sad but its one of the best things ive ever read quality wise. Its amazing awesome job!
MaddieGr This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 17, 2010 at 3:10 pm
Wow, just... wow. Amazing :)
Mikky-girl said...
Aug. 17, 2010 at 12:39 pm
wow. i love this..i almost cried when the mothers death happened...i really like this..keep writing! :)
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