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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!

Abigail_W said...
Jun. 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm:
This hooked me from the first sentence.
 
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RMSW11 said...
Jun. 18, 2009 at 3:39 pm:
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.

Bravo.
 
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hope J. said...
Jun. 11, 2009 at 7:57 pm:
this was really good and touching.
 
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Katelyn R. said...
Jun. 11, 2009 at 3:05 pm:
Really interesting :)
 
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melinda C. said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 10:00 pm:
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.
 
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Kerry_Berry_101 said...
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.<... (more »)
 
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Claudia said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 6:01 pm:
This is simply amazing.
 
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Shawna C. said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 5:23 pm:
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.
 
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Brandi K. said...
Jun. 4, 2009 at 3:39 pm:
touching.
 
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XXcrazy_amazingXX said...
Jun. 2, 2009 at 1:32 pm:
Good story. It's kinda depressing though...
 
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Rae said...
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.

more »)
 
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JustAbbi This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 2, 2009 at 12:01 am:
ohhhh my gosh great. keep it up.
 
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BloodRose said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 11:28 pm:
This was an amazing piece...I am amazed!!! Great writing keep it up!
 
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volleygirl6 said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 9:39 pm:
Wow! that was really amazing! It took my breath away! The depth of understanding you show is remarkable, keep writing!
 
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KennaDances This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 7:33 pm:
WOW. That's all I can say. Wow.
 
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BloodRose said...
Jun. 1, 2009 at 5:08 pm:
This was an amazing piece...a bit choppy but amazing non the less
 
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pinksage33 said...
May 22, 2009 at 11:51 pm:
That made me cry it was so good!!!
 
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Lauren-Anne said...
May 20, 2009 at 1:16 am:
Amazing... a piece of art...
 
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Te-Roy-Say said...
May 18, 2009 at 8:49 pm:
Wow! I read his in the last issue, and I couldn't take my eyes away from it!
Thank you for writing that! and Keep it up! xD
 
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LilJ<3 said...
May 14, 2009 at 8:14 pm:
WOW...I absoultely loved the twist you put on the end... The way you wrote this was amazing... how did you formulate this idea? KEEP writing and spreading you talent for all to see....congrats
Jackie (:
 
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