RIDGEFIELD, CT — March 9, 2021 — 30 years ago, as a very young cardiologist, still in my 20s, I met one of my first patients, Mr. Rrok Kocaj. After all those years I still remember the bed and room he was in which tells me how cherished a patient and friend he would become.
Rrok was one of many Albanian patients and co-workers I would meet working in The Bronx. I would end up caring for members of his family and working with his niece. One of them would provide me with a small gift, a book about how the Albanians fought to save Jewish lives during the war.
Rrok always greeted me with a warm enveloping smile and never complained about his health. I had to peel away his honor of not complaining to anyone in order to make sure he was really OK.
He lived a very pleasant life, sometimes visiting his old country, always talking about his family and his niece who worked with me, and in spite of that very large heart attack he had was a true rock and seemed to be able to live forever; until the COVID pandemic.
On the day of his passing, three years after my last visit with him, I received a message from his niece, Rrok had passed from this dreaded COVID plague.
R.I.P. Rrok. I will toast to you tonight with some Albanian wine your brother, who is also missed, gave me and hope to enjoy some byrek soon.