The Savannah Country Day School

Service Through Knowledge and Character

Dr. Robert C. Rollings ‘74

"When the pandemic hit, I had been at Emory University on sabbatical. Just a half-mile from the CDC, my course in chemical biology was focused on the viral genome and we used the same tools as the researchers investigating coronavirus. In my philosophy course, we were studying the nature of impermanence and interconnectedness. As the weeks unfolded and without immediate practice obligations, it became apparent that I had an opportunity to volunteer in New York. The call came with only a few days to prepare.  
Flying into a deserted JFK late on Sunday night in May, I served at the North Central Bronx Hospital the next day. The entire hospital had been converted to a Covid-19 hospital and most of the floors were intensive care units that were overloaded with patients on ventilators. In addition to our ER, we took transfers from Queens, Brooklyn, the Javits Center and the USNS Comfort.  As a safety net hospital, we saw that the Bronx had been hit particularly hard, as the virus moved from the mobile and affluent to the poor and unfortunate. As a cardiologist, it became clear that this was an infectious disease with devastating effects throughout the circulatory system, so my skills were put to immediate use throughout the 12 floors of the hospital.  
During the night shift, from 8 pm to 8 am, I participated in the care of an incredibly diverse group of patients while during the day, I completed my coursework and final exams.  As an embodied experience of human suffering and resilience, I witnessed extraordinary acts of compassion and kindness. Being present, the clarity of sacred moments of life and death were illuminated in the quiet wards where the metaphorical struggle for breath and survival was the most powerful sensation. The overwhelming feeling of shared responsibility with physicians and nurses from all over the country participating in this endeavor is beyond words.  One observes and acknowledges our deep connectedness.  Perhaps the turmoil of a world disrupted can provide meaning as well as hope for deep and lasting transformation.  I sense that we are all on the same path, with common hopes for happiness, health and peace.  Indeed our journey will be long, requiring diligence as well as a willingness to endeavor and persevere. 
I would like to give a shout-out to the family of Zachary ‘07, Abby ‘13 and Patrick ‘12 Lorenz, as their aunt Kate who lives in NYC was pivotal in coordinating the delivery of masks and PPE to the staff at NCB.  Dr. Gifford Lorenz has been at the forefront of caring for the critically ill COVID patients in Savannah and has been a constant source of inspiration to me."