May 16, 2014

By Nancy Hernandez


I did not know you until that time,

We scurried into your room

And found you pulseless, breathless, lifeless.

I was asked to keep



Fumbling for paper, I resorted to skin,

Marking the time we started to

Restore your blood flow.

Pumping in air,

Compressing your chest,

As you were infused with epinephrine,

I kept time.


Your story started pouring in,

You were post-op for an

Incision and drainage

Of your limb amputation site –

A diabetic’s fight.

Nonresponsive when a nurse returned

With the bedpan you had last requested.


Two minutes in,

With no palpable pulse.

Second epinephrine push,



I looked on as the team battled for your revival,

Their efforts visible by pearls of sweat

Dripping down their foreheads.

Their quick glances to me inquired if it was yet time,

With the mutual feeling that,

Every second felt longer than the one before.

With the mutual feeling that,

We wish we could do more.


Third epinephrine dose,

I kept time.


Seventeen minutes total,

The amount of time that we tried.

I wanted to hold your hand,

Your hand of already changed complexion,

From oxygen deprivation.

But what difference would it have made?

Was this desire for my own comfort, and nobody else’s?


Did you often wonder about this moment?

When would be your time?

This time unknown.

This time, your time.

This time I was honored to share with you.

This time that is now etched on my palm.

Nancy Hernandez is a 3rd year medical student at NYU School of Medicine







One comment on “Timekeeping

  • Avatar of Stan Freedman
    Stan Freedman on

    Your short piece called “Timekeeping” was poignant, thought provoking. Sent it to two of our sons, both MDs, and one replied “Heavy stuff.”, and the other replied “Beautiful, just beautiful.”
    Codes remain vivid, even years later.
    Hope you are enjoying your formative, precious years.
    Stan Freedman (’61)

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