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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This article has 295 comments. Post your own now!

Alexandria L. said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 11:50 pm
That was really amazing. you're a an excellent writer! I was ensnared through out the whole thing. I just couldn't stop reading! Great job(:
mimirocks124 said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm
this is amazing. it wuz relly captivating. im surprised i liked it so much, i relly hate doctor shows, they scare me but this wuz guddd.
dolphin13 said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 6:10 pm
Wow! This is so amazing! I never really thought about from the doctor's perspective. Very good! Keep writing1
buzzlikebea This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 10:19 am
My eyes didn't leave the screen once. great work.
niko_timmy said...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 8:07 am
oh my god, this is so good! i love to watch doctor shows on TV so it's amazing to see what its like in their heads when this sort of thing happens. great job, keep writing!
MangaArtist said...
Dec. 24, 2010 at 11:06 pm
Nice use of second person! This was fabulous! Keep writing!
amalie said...
Dec. 16, 2010 at 6:14 am
wooooow. Inpressive! really like it, really like the truth of it. Very well written.
KimiRose said...
Dec. 10, 2010 at 11:33 am
WOW this is amazing and so moving. Love the use of third person - it's something I've always wanted to try but I've never been sure how to do it right. Your story is the perfect example of how to do it really well.
BurningRose said...
Dec. 6, 2010 at 9:33 am
oh my god...that was actually the best thing i have ever read in my lief <33 great!
SnowyStateofMind17 said...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 4:56 pm
o...my...gosh this is like...amazing. its like im the doctor in the story i love how you use YOU intead of SHE or ME thats 2nd person right? KEEP WRITING
OriginalCarbonation said...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 11:43 am
oh lord. wow.
Chanchie said...
Dec. 5, 2010 at 6:41 am
heart touching... :')
Lizette said...
Nov. 22, 2010 at 1:36 pm


That was really...deep. Made me want to cry.


Samaiya This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 11:41 pm
  Oh, wow.
irtfaz said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Awesome writing. I especially liked how you number the deaths... and good job with second person; only a few people are able to pull that off really well, but you did a good job :)

(The baby death made me sad.)

ilovepolkadots said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 5:57 pm
oh sorry, I meant "writing"
ilovepolkadots said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 5:56 pm
I really admire the way you wrote this. It's so unique and perfect! Don't stop wirting like this!!!
bubj98 said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 5:49 pm
im crying so much.this was beautiful and sad,but mostly beautiful.you have a gift and you need to make novels,beautiful,sad novels.it takes talent to write something lik this and you hav it.maybe you could check out some of my work and leave some comments.this piece of yours is 6 stars,but i only have 5 .so 5 stars,but 6 between you and me
xMeadowx said...
Nov. 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm
My boyfriend is dying and he admitted it this morning and it seems that teenink's theme is death today. Sad. I love the story and you're a great writer. You understand things. :)
giggles33361 replied...
Dec. 27, 2010 at 7:47 am
im so sorry to hear that xMeadowx   :(
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