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


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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 ….”

“No!”

“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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This article has 292 comments. Post your own!

SunnyGirl307 said...
Feb. 26, 2010 at 10:03 pm:
Wow this is soo SAD! But I LOVED IT! You are an amazing writer!
 
Rose19 replied...
Mar. 7, 2010 at 8:26 am :
Extremely well written..
 
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firstsnowfalls This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 3:10 pm:
wow this is wonderful
 
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SharpestSatire said...
Feb. 22, 2010 at 11:00 am:
That is so SAD and so well written.... Man.... :'( Good job!
 
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E.LeeXxX3 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 16, 2010 at 10:27 am:
LOVED it. :)
 
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samidvd96 said...
Feb. 15, 2010 at 5:46 pm:
i loved it keep writing
 
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AnneOnnimous said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 4:50 pm:
amazing!! I absolutely loved it!! great writing... please check out some of my work
 
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TigerstarzThis 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. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm:
This is so awesome! I don't really even know what to say, other than the piece was very touching....
 
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B.R.Nack said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 3:07 pm:
wow, im having issues coming up with words to fit how amazing this is! its great keep writing you are amazing
 
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AquariusSun&Moon This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm:
This is really, really, REALLY good! Keep writing! :)
 
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live~en~livre said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 12:58 pm:
wow. that was amazing. Your story is one of the best I've read so far! very inspirational.
Keep Writing.
check out my story! :)
 
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@rT$y_and_@We$()mE said...
Jan. 31, 2010 at 9:06 am:
MY STORY: THE 17TH
May 19 1849
she sat in front of the fire that raged behind her. Her black hair was oily purple in the wake of it's light.She could not feel the flames or the heat that pulsed through them like a beating heart. Her eyes were closed tight. Maybe if she closed them tighter she could shut them out, shut them out. Her mind was like a glass brain shattered. Pieces fading in and out and her head bulging, crying out in pain.Her limbs felt hollow, not connected. Harro... (more »)
 
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PAMMY said...
Jan. 15, 2010 at 8:38 am:
WOW!!!thi is SO amazing
it is inspiring, creative, and very true
you ha about death
YOU have change my ways of thinking
Thank You!
 
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crazycreative23 said...
Jan. 9, 2010 at 10:04 pm:
wow. beautiful,
 
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ponysyd said...
Jan. 9, 2010 at 5:45 pm:
That was AMAZING! Nice job, I loved it.
 
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Prd101 said...
Dec. 23, 2009 at 10:16 am:
You are a great writer! It was a really good story, I enjoyed it alot.. Keep on writing!
 
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Springs!! said...
Dec. 19, 2009 at 10:01 am:
That is amazing!!!
 
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AzureGal said...
Dec. 8, 2009 at 3:32 am:
It's great.. and touching.. Thank u for giving us a chance to know.
 
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Shipwreck said...
Nov. 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm:
Thank you. I have a hard time with doctors but reading this piece reminded me that they are only trying to save lives.
 
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Meyuki said...
Nov. 26, 2009 at 6:33 pm:
it was stunning. it's a very bitter sweet story. well crafted
 
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MayaChristine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 26, 2009 at 11:28 am:
ditto to all the below comments! absolutely amazing, keep up the good work!
 
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