EMS Poem: ‘Behind the steady eyes’

A paramedic hopes this last thought will help her find sleep again

Olanna Buck, NREMT-P, has been in EMS for eight years, working in rural Maine, responding to almost every call imaginable, often as the only licensed provider, even as an EMT. She wrote the following poem after a particularly difficult call involving multiple minor trauma patients. Do you have a creative work about your experience as a first responder you’d like to share? Email us at editor@ems1.com.

By Olanna Buck, NREMT-P

With no second thought, I know what to do;
my hands move quickly so your breath can move too.

It should be no surprise, after all this time;
still it seems like my skills are of their own mind.


Even the ones I haven't done in so long;
even the ones they say won't be strong.

Maybe my heart shouldn't be so heavy;
I know that already I've lost so many.

Maybe I know your name, I doubt you know mine;
but your face will haunt me when I try to sleep tonight.

I know they our days are as numbered as the blooms;
but it's my job, my heart, to take care of you.

By the book, I know, we did all that we can.

In my head, I know, we did more than others might;
None of this logic will help me sleep at night.

Other said I made them proud, I did my job so well;
if I did so well, why do these moments feel like hell?

My job is to save those that can be saved;
the decision to end a life is not one that I, but God made.

But it's we that call time;
we that stop the start;
we that end revival;
we that cease this part.

This part of time has come to an end;
we close your eyes and tuck you in.

May your soul be somewhere away from the pain I could not stop;
maybe this will only be the hope that I've got.

To ease my mind and stop my pain;
maybe this thought will help me sleep again.

About the author

Olanna Buck is a full-time paramedic and QA/QI coordinator. She holds her AAS in emergency medical services. She is a NAEMSE and Maine state instructor/coordinator, and assistant paramedic instructor. 

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