Time of Death | Teen Ink

Time of Death MAG

January 15, 2009
By Grace Hoo Hoo BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Grace Hoo Hoo BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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 ….”

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This article has 300 comments.

LolHi1212 said...
on Nov. 19 2020 at 3:50 pm
LolHi1212, Northglenn, Colorado
0 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led. - Thomas Jefferson

The only words I have to describe this is beautiful and so well written! It has a very emotional feel throughout the whole thing. I loved it!

on Nov. 10 2020 at 6:39 pm
AngryPomerainian64 BRONZE, Orting, Washington
3 articles 0 photos 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
"There's nothing crueler than letting a dream end midway." -Shota Aizawa

This was amazing. I wasn't expecting the ending and it was sad but amazing.

KJ03 said...
on Oct. 16 2020 at 8:15 am
KJ03, Ewing, New Jersey
0 articles 0 photos 18 comments
The whole time I was thinking about Grey's Anatomy, The show is fictional but it portrays real events and seeing it isn't anywhere the same as reading it. I think you did a great job describing what it was like having to report something as awful as the time of death and how it is each time is remembered. No matter how sad the moments can be some people how the doctors must remain professional during.

Zdog999 said...
on May. 4 2020 at 4:47 pm
Zdog999, Merced, California
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
wow i felt this story just wow

on Apr. 11 2020 at 11:22 pm
QueenJellybean888 BRONZE, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
1 article 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
Don’t let the world change your smile, but let your smile change the world.

Wow! This brought tears in my eyes. There is something sadly realistic about this piece. Keep it up!

on Jun. 11 2017 at 10:20 am
HereSheIs BRONZE, Wellesley, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 187 comments

Favorite Quote:
"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light." -Plato

Packed with emotion and all around awesome

vivz02 GOLD said...
on Apr. 28 2016 at 10:38 pm
vivz02 GOLD, Naperville, Illinois
12 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
"a life you love," sydney carton to lucie manette, a tale of two cities

That was amazing. I really wasn't expecting the last part. Keep up with the good work! ;)

on Nov. 18 2015 at 9:00 pm
emmakate45 SILVER, Avon, Connecticut
6 articles 2 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”― Dr. Seuss

Wow. Tears in my eyes at the last part.

Maddy_Koch_3 said...
on Apr. 10 2014 at 8:43 pm
Maddy_Koch_3, Bradenton, Florida
0 articles 0 photos 6 comments

Favorite Quote:
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars. —Les Brown


on May. 25 2013 at 6:12 pm
RoyalCorona SILVER, Grand Rapids, Michigan
7 articles 0 photos 290 comments

Favorite Quote:
All of us fave failed to match our dream of perfection. I rate us on the basis of our splendid failure to do the impossible. -William Faulkner

This was a great short story and deserves to be put in the magzine!! Nice job!

on Apr. 30 2013 at 6:34 pm
Wings10FeetTall GOLD, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
17 articles 0 photos 332 comments

Favorite Quote:
May your words be sharp.
- Christopher Paolini

Nobody's going to wait for you, so do it now.
-Ingrid Michaelson

Broken hearts heal, but never the same.
- Jessica Romo

Idiots rely on luck.
-Sherlock Holmes

This is so sad.

Super-Tate said...
on Apr. 14 2013 at 10:30 pm
Super-Tate, San Diego, California
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself." --Matthew 6:34a

Wow! That was amazing. It was really powerful and brought tears to ny eyes ay the end. :(

on Jan. 30 2013 at 9:42 am
The_Narrator SILVER, Raymond, Mississippi
9 articles 0 photos 13 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." -J.F.K.

In all of my searching on Teen Ink, I must say that this is the best piece of literature I have EVER read. It is fluent, amazing, speaks to your heart, and is 100% fantastic. Thank you for submitting this. It is incredible.

kmcn33 BRONZE said...
on Jan. 12 2013 at 9:13 pm
kmcn33 BRONZE, Needham, Massachusetts
4 articles 3 photos 34 comments

Favorite Quote:
I was much too far out all my life / And not waving but drowning

Oh my god this is amazing

on Dec. 30 2012 at 4:09 pm
nerdyfish SILVER, Peabody, Massachusetts
5 articles 2 photos 11 comments
Wow this is very realistic and your grabber keeps me clinging on to the last string. Emotional and outstanding, especially if you are interested in health like myself. Keep up the great work, you inspire me.

on Nov. 8 2012 at 2:03 am
onehappyaster SILVER, Holmview, Other
7 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
He who does nothing does not move forward

I myself am a nursing student and the way you presented this.. idea, is so true! you never really think about how hard and unglamorous such jobs can be.. definitely an accurate perception and so beautifully written! you have an amazing gift!

on Oct. 17 2012 at 3:01 am
forsaken_sadness BRONZE, Gresham, Oregon
4 articles 1 photo 12 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Sometimes, the smallest things take up the biggest parts of our hearts” –Winnie the Pooh

The last part made me want to cry.... It really shows how hard life is, and the hardships that we go through.

on Jul. 22 2012 at 6:39 pm
Caesar123 DIAMOND, Union Grove, Wisconsin
50 articles 7 photos 103 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Madness in great ones must not unwatched go" --Claudius in William Shakespeare's Hamlet

The story was pretty good, but I did notice a few grammatical errors. They took away from the story a bit, but not much. Overall real nice.

on Jul. 21 2012 at 2:43 pm
briannarose29 BRONZE, Stoughton, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 5 comments
Gave me goosebumps! Such a beautiful, heartbreaking story. Shows how fragile life is. Keep writing! (:

on Jul. 12 2012 at 7:49 pm
Sydney Kozlik, Hartland, Wisconsin
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments
This is so good...it really put a lot into perspective, you did an amazing job.