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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AnonymouslyInTuneWithHarmony said...
May 8, 2011 at 10:20 am

This was really good it takes talent to be able to write in second person especially since most people rarely do


PaRaNoRmAl627 replied...
May 8, 2011 at 3:32 pm
I totally agree, second person is complicatedd
AnonymouslyInTuneWithHarmony replied...
May 8, 2011 at 9:48 pm
My point exactly I'm glad someone agrees with me lol XD normally I'd ask you to check out my work but it's still being approved so technically I don't have any work isn't that great!? X)
ohsopoisonous said...
May 6, 2011 at 8:23 pm
Oh my gosh. That was amazing, and i'm in tears haha.. Keep writing, this is very unique and overall one of the more original i've read. This was great. <3
Savannah.F said...
May 4, 2011 at 6:34 pm

this is really good :)

your really talented

N.B.44 said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm
Wow! this is such a great and inspiring short story. Keep up the good work!
JoPepper said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 9:06 pm
Omg this is so true, Whoever gives you 5 stars is nuts I give you 6 stars!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :o
allybymyself said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 7:58 pm
My heart was beating!! Very good!
dancingluverr said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 5:38 pm
This is absolutely incredible! I know exactly what you mean.
H0peF1ames said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm
Wow! This is a very intense short story! Very sad and touching! But it was a little confusing when you kept switching from death to death.
AnnaBaldwin said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 11:17 am
wow that was truely beautiful. Very moving, keep it up.
MadiBird said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 10:12 am
Oh my gosh....this gave me chills. Very well-written and original! Beautiful job!
kwuffles said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 9:24 am
That was brilliant.
LiveInTheMoment said...
Apr. 16, 2011 at 9:06 am
Wow...this was a really emotional, really beautiful piece. Is it a true story? Anyways, keep on writing. If you have time, please check out, rate, and comment on my poem, The Girl Inside. Thanks!!!! 8)
bieberl0ve15 said...
Apr. 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm
Fantastic. It was so emotional for me to read, and it made me realize the huge responsibility doctors have. Thanks for sharing with us.
Vesperstar1 said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm
this is AMAZING!!!!! all i can say is thank you so much for sharing it :)
NatashaSujin said...
Mar. 26, 2011 at 3:53 pm

This piece was truly refreshing. A different point of view that was well written. The only thing that bothered me was the use of "you." It got a little much, but that's only on a writer to writer note.


This was wonderful though, thank you for the read.

Penfencer replied...
Mar. 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm
I have to say I disagree. I understand your opinion on it getting a bit smothering, but for my feedback I have to say I thought it was an excellent use of second person. Very powerful.
Nerdynerd said...
Mar. 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm
 I almost cried at the end. Ur ahmazing
BlackBaroness said...
Mar. 22, 2011 at 7:03 pm
You're ah-mayyyyzing... seriously!!!!
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