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.

on Nov. 13 2010 at 5:57 pm
ilovepolkadots, Joplin, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 15 comments
oh sorry, I meant "writing"

on Nov. 13 2010 at 5:56 pm
ilovepolkadots, Joplin, Missouri
0 articles 0 photos 15 comments
I really admire the way you wrote this. It's so unique and perfect! Don't stop wirting like this!!!

bubj98 BRONZE said...
on Nov. 13 2010 at 5:49 pm
bubj98 BRONZE, Oceanside, California
4 articles 0 photos 32 comments

Favorite Quote:
"hate is a strong word ,but love is a stronger one"
"sometimes batteries help when the little robot inside your head stops working"
"i guess that guy over there is like...alive?"

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

on Nov. 13 2010 at 3:09 pm
Yousmell-likealoser BRONZE, Belgium, Wisconsin
4 articles 5 photos 43 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life may not always be what you want, but life is all you've got; so stick a flower in your bellybutton and be happy!"

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. :)

sunnyd BRONZE said...
on Nov. 13 2010 at 2:34 pm
sunnyd BRONZE, Hoover, Alabama
1 article 2 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Phill. 4:13

I loved this! It was beautiful and made me want to cry! ;)

on Nov. 13 2010 at 10:11 am
HurtTiger SILVER, Jacksonville, Florida
9 articles 2 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind.
No risk, no reward

By the way i gave it five stars.

on Nov. 13 2010 at 10:10 am
HurtTiger SILVER, Jacksonville, Florida
9 articles 2 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
Sometimes you gotta be cruel to be kind.
No risk, no reward

That was amazing. enough said.

on Oct. 22 2010 at 6:31 pm
BeautyFromPain BRONZE, Juneau, Alaska
1 article 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
Idiocy is learned, your parents must be proud.

Yup, I know the feeling. I hate when it happens, but it's worth it.

Curly_Sue said...
on Oct. 22 2010 at 6:29 pm
Curly_Sue, Sand Springs, Oklahoma
0 articles 0 photos 75 comments
this is really good and really sad. good job. it takes a gift to write something like this.

on Oct. 22 2010 at 10:53 am
Lovely_Lauren GOLD, Portland, Oregon
10 articles 0 photos 26 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." -Anonymous

Seriously... that made me cry. This piece is like my favorite. You totally have a gift for writing... (: 

Quowl BRONZE said...
on Oct. 22 2010 at 9:34 am
Quowl BRONZE, West Des Moines, Iowa
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
That was amazing.

on Oct. 22 2010 at 8:23 am
Kiley Dulac SILVER, Kittery, Maine
5 articles 0 photos 4 comments
I cried as well. I was reading this in LA class, in my spare time, and I just burst into tears..! Kinda of embarrassing but worth the tears to cry.

on Oct. 22 2010 at 7:18 am
skyblue95 PLATINUM, Bear, Delaware
35 articles 1 photo 40 comments

Favorite Quote:
I am paraphrasing, of course. "My only fear is that when they are turned to loving they will find we are turned to hating." -Reverand Msimangu, Cry, The Beloved Country (a book by Alan Paton)

I know you've heard it a million times on this one webpage, but that was truly and utterly amazing. I loved this piece. Obviously you have a passion and a talent for writing. I would appreciate it if you could look over some of my stuff and give any comments/ratings you can to help me improve. Thanks and keep writing!

on Oct. 20 2010 at 10:00 pm
RainOnMyWindowpane SILVER, Sacramento, California
5 articles 0 photos 8 comments

Favorite Quote:
The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls. - Pablo Picasso

This peace was wonderful, sad, but wonderful.

on Oct. 3 2010 at 5:55 pm
Writer4Life_21 SILVER, No Where, Maryland
5 articles 2 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If you don't know where your going, you will end up someplace else." - Yogi Bera

This is a very interesting/genius work. Keep writing, I will definatly keep reading.

on Sep. 30 2010 at 8:46 pm
passion.fable14 SILVER, Fort Collins, Colorado
8 articles 0 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Life is like a cup of coffee. You gotta...dive right in and drink it fast before it cools. Because coffee sucks when its cool. And it tastes like crap. Do you want your life to taste like crap Sam? I don't. That's why i don't drink coffee."

Ohmigosh this was amazing!!!! Are you going to write more? please write more!!!

on Sep. 30 2010 at 8:01 pm
Stefegg PLATINUM, Maysville, Missouri
21 articles 0 photos 78 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world."

Beautifully written. So so sad. Keep writing! 

reg93 BRONZE said...
on Sep. 30 2010 at 6:03 pm
reg93 BRONZE, Billings, Montana
2 articles 0 photos 21 comments

Favorite Quote:
"A wise girl kisses but doesn't love, listens but doesn't believe, and leaves before she is left."
— Marilyn Monroe

That was amazing. You have skills and know how to write something truelly beautiful. This is sad yet very very touching

on Sep. 30 2010 at 11:12 am
Chitra.I PLATINUM, Dubai, Other
44 articles 2 photos 131 comments

Favorite Quote:
Everything makes sense if you think too much about it.

That was....beautiful.

on Sep. 8 2010 at 7:46 pm
RainyWriter GOLD, Redmond, Washington
14 articles 0 photos 41 comments

Favorite Quote:
Only the smart, talented, amazing, and insane are remembered in history.

Loved it! Sooo much! Most of us make the mistake of loading on meaningless details when sometimes the best stories are the simplest, the simplest that make you think without hurting your head over details. Sometimes it doesn't matter what the mother or father of that dying baby looks like, it doesn't matter what the narrator looks like.

Loved the part at the end with the mother. Was not expecting that. The time of death part was just beautiful.

Amazing. You should totally find an anthology to get this published in if you are allowed to (Teen Ink and all).