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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Birdy-chan This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 25, 2010 at 8:39 am
This was beautifully written and made me want to smile and cry at the same time. Thank you.
eileentotheleft replied...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 2:06 pm
Amazing creativity.
sunnyhunny This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
May 23, 2010 at 1:09 pm
This is incredible and very touching.  Fantastic job. 
Noella said...
May 21, 2010 at 2:33 pm
This is a very touching story. You interacted well with the reader; allowing the reader to put themselves into the situation that you are explaining. It was extremely well written.
keilly said...
May 21, 2010 at 8:02 am
i loved this! it is very touching and i did cry aswell. there are no words to describe what was felt while reading this. great job
BeautyFromPain said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm
This is amazing... I cried through the whole thing, especially the part about the baby. My sister-in-law had twins and they were kept on macines. This is really touching...
Kiley D. replied...
Oct. 22, 2010 at 8:23 am
I cried as well. I was reading this in LA class, in my spare time, and I just burst into tears..! Kinda of embarrassing but worth the tears to cry.
greystar said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 8:31 pm
excellent. very touching.
xBaByGiRrL22x said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 6:01 pm
this is incredible. i luvv it. really kewl way of writingg((: keep it upp
kate-the-shrew said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 5:49 pm
My mom always tells me that only a really good author can bring tears to your eyes when you read their writing. This brought tears to my eyes.
Sumana2 said...
Apr. 29, 2010 at 6:57 am
This was wonderful. It really strikes someone hard when they read this. Great job.
CreativeScript said...
Apr. 22, 2010 at 11:46 pm

That was really sad. I actually read this all. Some stories on TeenInk arent always worth reading. But this! I like the POVs in it!


PS: LOOK AT MY STUFF! COMMENT, RATE! Ill look at yours too!

iliketac0s said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm
WOW loved the ending. really sad :'(
Wellington This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 7, 2010 at 8:13 am
wow that was absolutely beautiful! i thought it was very fresh and new- nothing like i had ever seen before but a the same time very very sad.
Jenni_Marie said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 12:07 am
This nearly made me cry! Astounding!
PrincessPineapple said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 6:26 am
this is amazing! the twist at the end was great!
Jammer said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 7:40 pm
just great... the end really jumps out at you, so well-written and relatable. any reader can/will empathize
wanted9000 said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 5:59 pm
Dallas James Hogue
Time of Death
The short story, Time of death, by Grace Hoo H., does a good job developing the plot. In the beginning she started out with an exposition. That to me was when she started out talking about how the first death was never your fault. “The first death on your watch isn’t even your fault.” This shows how the author is not so emotional but still cares about the people that she is trying to help. I now thought the rising action of th... (more »)
Paper_PoeticThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 1:32 pm
this is great! very well written! I really loved it.
would you check out some of my work?
Bum C. said...
Mar. 16, 2010 at 10:20 am
Review of yo story
Your story, time of death, was so well written I really enjoyed how well thought out the plot was. Even in the last segment when you said the 33rd death is the best I didn’t feel that you were overdoing it at all. I’m glad you were willing to writ about something so personal. The theme was very strong and just made the story even better. Also at the part where you said that the 33rd death is the best and that talked about how it was your mom dying. That was a... (more »)
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