Former football player Myron Rolle talked about working in Mass. General’s COVID-19 ward

"During my shifts in the surge clinic, my colleagues and I are foot soldiers in this larger fight."

Myron Rolle has been helping treat COVID-19 patients at Mass. General.
Myron Rolle has been helping treat COVID-19 patients at Mass. General. –Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Myron Rolle, a former No. 1 college football recruit who was once an NFL safety, recently tried to explain what it’s been like as part of Mass. General Hospital’s COVID-19 surge clinic.

Now in his third year as a neurosurgeon resident at Harvard Medical School and Mass. General, Rolle was pulled into coronavirus-related roles starting in March.

The 2008 Rhodes Scholar wrote a guest column for Peter King’s weekly “Football Morning in America” feature. In it, Rolle discussed some of the challenges that healthcare workers have had to navigate in the unprecedented circumstances of the ongoing pandemic.

“During my shifts in the surge clinic, my colleagues and I are foot soldiers in this larger fight,” Rolle wrote. “We manage and triage patients, put in orders for CAT scans and chest X-rays, set up consults and get patients where they need to be, all while taking extensive precautions to protect ourselves and avoid transmission.

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“Despite the busyness of this team, one of the most jarring things is seeing empty hallways in the hospital, knowing that family members can’t come in, essential staff is limited and that people in need have had their procedures postponed to allow us to help the very sickest patients.”

The demands placed on the healthcare infrastructure meant that many hospital employees (including surgeons) were forced into unfamiliar roles.

Rolle explained that he has encountered this in performing surgery on several occasions.

“In May, I operated on a patient with COVID-19 who had a tumor that was causing obstruction to the fluid-filled spaces in his brain,” wrote Rolle. “I’ve operated on some very sick patients before, including those with full-blown tuberculosis, and at that point I had been working with coronavirus patients in the surge clinic for several months, so I was familiar with how to navigate. That said, my expertise is in the central nervous system, and coronavirus ravages the respiratory system.”

But like so many other healthcare workers grappling with the pandemic, Rolle found a way to help his patient.

“While he’s still in the hospital with a long road ahead, he’s had several negative COVID-19 tests, so we’re moving in the right direction.”

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Rolle’s unique background has proven an asset, as noted that “my football background has been huge for me.”

For the former Florida State football player, he uses a method his old defensive coordinator taught him.

“I try to get 2 percent better whenever I do anything, especially in surgery and the technical skills we rely on every day,” said Rolle. “That includes learning daily about COVID-19 and getting myself up to speed with the new data and journal articles on how to manage these patients correctly. In everything, I work to get 2 percent better to be the best provider I can possibly be.”

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