Howard and Claris Brock knew the phone call would come eventually. They had tried to ready their son Lateef, too.
“From the very first day, we knew that one day he would either need dialysis or transplantation, even before we decided to adopt,” Claris said.
Lateef was born with a malfunctioning bladder. That led to a string of repercussions, the most severe of which was kidneys that didn’t work as well as they should. But even knowing that, the Clinton, Md., couple didn’t hesitate to give Lateef — now 8 — a home. (Lateef’s 5-year-old brother, Elias, is adopted, too. The boys have a 23-year-old stepsister, Danielle.)
For all of his life, Lateef has been treated at Children’s National: catheters to help him go to the bathroom, needle sticks to check his blood chemistry, ultrasounds to view his urinary tract. He was, for the most part, uncomplaining — he knew nothing else — but occasionally he would fix his mother with his brown eyes and ask why.
“The way we live our lives, we tell them all of us are different in one way or another,” Claris said. “God made each of us different. We all have different needs.”
In January 2012, doctors at Children’s told the Brocks that it was time. Lateef’s blood creatinine levels were such that they recommended he be placed on the transplant list. The Brocks were told to keep their cellphones charged and to not travel farther than 50 miles from the D.C. area.
They didn’t keep the information from Lateef. “It was never a secret,” Claris said of the transplant. “We would just say we don’t know when.”
It looked like the day would be Sept. 17, 2012. The hospital called to say a kidney had been found. With the possibility so real, Lateef finally showed signs of worry.
“He was very upset,” Claris said. “He’d been hospitalized so many times.”
His parents drove him to Children’s, and Lateef went through the preparations for surgery. At the last minute, surgeons didn’t like the look of the donor organ and the procedure was canceled.
This episode turned out to be kind of a useful dress rehearsal, though, for when a more suitable kidney became available on Nov. 5, 2012, Lateef was unconcerned. In a five-hour operation he received a new kidney.
In August of this year, the Brocks met the family of the 22-year-old man whose untimely death had made the kidney available. Lateef made a Build-A-Bear doll for the man’s mother as a gesture of gratitude.
“Kidney failure is for life,” said Asha Moudgil, medical director of kidney transplants at Children’s National. That means Lateef will need regular monitoring. But, Dr. Moudgil said, “if Lateef doesn’t lift his shirt, you cannot tell something is wrong with this child.”
Lateef is incredibly active. He plays flag football, and this summer, with the help of ESPN and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, he met his idol, Robert Griffin III.
I asked Claris whether she ever had second thoughts about adopting a child who would need such care and attention. “No. Never,” she said. “I’ve always had the mind-set that things that might seem impossible can always be made possible.”
And that includes providing a better life for Lateef.
The Brocks are fortunate: They have good jobs. Claris is a school counselor in Montgomery County, and Howard is an administrative assistant at a school in Charles County.
But for those families not so lucky, there is the Children’s National uncompensated care fund. Please help me raise $400,000 for it. We stand at $93,350.34.
To make a tax-deductible donation, visit childrensnational.org/washingtonpost or send a check (payable to “Children’s National”) to Washington Post Giving Campaign, c/o Children’s Hospital Foundation, 801 Roeder Rd., Suite 650, Silver Spring, Md. 20910. Our deadline is Jan. 10.
Bill and Joanne Conway, through their Bedford Falls Foundation, have generously offered to match all gifts to The Washington Post Campaign for Children’s National. All donations, up to a total of $150,000, made by Dec. 31 will be matched dollar for dollar.
Your gift today can make a difference in the life of a child.
When Joe Grano passed away on Nov. 24 at age 68, the District lost one of its loudest voices for, well, for the District. Joe was the local history buff who led the valiant, but unsuccessful, effort to save the Rhodes Tavern, a Colonial-era hostelry at 15th and F streets NW. Recently, he’d been successful in seeking recognition for artist Constantino Brumidi, whose deft paintwork transformed much of the U.S. Capitol’s interior.
I got to know Joe through his activism over the District’s World War I Memorial. He didn’t want to see it made into a national memorial.
Joe was from the Bronx originally and he never lost his accent (a little grating) and his attitude (very insistent), but few transplants loved this city as much as he did.
A slip of the fingers and Joan Weber’s name ended up misspelled in a few places in my Wednesday column. She and husband, Bruce, own Tank, the inquisitive cat.
For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/johnkelly.