The headlines call AIDS "the disease of the '80s." But many of its victims are not adults. They are children who contract AIDS through transfusions of infected blood, or in the womb, from their mothers. Like all hospitals, Children's Hospital sees more AIDS patients with each passing month. But Children's recently organized a special AIDS team, and it is having some success. My associate in our annual fund-raising campaign, Deborah Schwartz, got to know the Children's AIDS team last week. Her report:

Terrell turned 2 in September. He was not expected to live half that long. At this time last year, Children's Hospital was preparing for his imminent death.

Terrell has AIDS. He apparently contracted the deadly illness from his mother, who was an intravenous drug user. His prognosis is the same as any AIDS patient's. But just when it seemed that Terrell was near death, he surprised everyone involved in his case by perking up.

"He came out of ICU {the intensive care unit} to die and I guess he decided not to. He has a very powerful, personal strength. He just wants to live," said his foster mother, who asked to remain anonymous.

"There's been a couple of times the hospital has called and said he won't make it. I think he has a sense that his life is special.

"He loves life. He is just full of life. He's just the most lovable kid."

Terrell spent about six of his first 14 months in the hospital, much of that time in the ICU. But since he was released last December, Terrell has been back to the hospital only once as an inpatient.

Terrell is one of an increasing number of children who are treated by the AIDS Care Team at Children's.

The team consists of a doctor, a nurse, two social workers and an administrative assistant. They were put together as a team by hospital administrators a little more than a month ago. They are at the core of all treatment given AIDS patients at Children's.

When it first became apparent that Children's needed to do more to treat children with the AIDS virus, the Children's Hospital AIDS Coordinating Committee started looking for qualified people to work on such a team. The team, headed by Dr. Shelby Josephs, an immunologist, started to form about 18 months ago.

Nurse Dottie Ward-Wimmer is the only member recruited from outside the hospital. Ward-Wimmer had been working at a hospice in New Jersey.

Social workers Janice George and Rene Underwood work with families of patients. They frequently visit patients at home. And Chen (the only name she goes by) is the administrator who brings all the loose ends together.

Since Children's started keeping track of patients with HIV-positive antibodies in 1984, the hospital has identified 116 afflicted children. This total includes those who have HIV-positive antibodies, AIDS-related complex or AIDS. Of these, 14 full-blown AIDS cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. AIDS cases do not have to be reported until they are confirmed.

The AIDS team sees newborns, infants and toddlers who have the disease. These children have been born to mothers who have tested positive for AIDS. But in some cases, mothers have passed the disease to their children without realizing they have it themselves.

"Take mothers who walk in here who have perhaps experimented with IV drugs or used IV drugs in the past," said Ward-Wimmer.

"You've cleaned up your life. You've gotten your act together. You're building a family or trying to build a family and your child is sickly and you don't know why and they do a test on the child and discover that the child has HIV.

"And then you screen Mom and you find out that she's got it, too. If that child wasn't sick she would have never known. She might not even be noticing her symptoms.

"They'll bring the kids in here for an appointment and you'll say, 'When was the last time that you saw a doctor?' "

A small percentage of HIV-positive babies are born with the HIV antibody but don't develop the disease. However, once a child starts to show signs of AIDS or AIDS-related complex, there is no known cure.

"We recognized early on that we could save some of the patients discomfort. We've minimized the number of doctors and nurses {seeing the patients}. Fortunately, we've been able to get quality people," said Dr. Josephs.

"We have to look for victories in different areas. To provide other things -- a hug."

The AIDS team doesn't always know what to expect from its patients, because they often live longer and do better than the team ever imagined. A prime example is Terrell, who has outlived expectations by more than a year.

But there are frustrations, too. Dr. Josephs says one of the biggest is irresponsible parents.

"I find it difficult to deal with families that don't bring the same kind of concern and values {to the situation} that I do," he said.

"They miss appointments, stay on drugs. The biggest problem for me is the social problem. The parents that are on drugs and are nodding off in the corner."

The AIDS team has a "healthy respect" for the disease it treats, and will wear gowns and gloves when necessary. But Chen said the team tries to avoid doing this because it's frightening for young patients to see nothing but a pair of eyes peering out at them.

The AIDS team does not get the same rewards as other medical personnel. It does not offer cures; just a little more time. Still, there are satisfactions.

"{Dottie} went into a little girl's room who never smiles. She probably always has a constant headache. Dottie brought her a doll and she smiled. That's the satisfaction she gets," Chen said.

"She knows she's going to lose a couple {of patients} by the end of the year, but she goes on. There are others that need her.

"They are willing to commit time and emotion in these babies and the child dies, but they keep going," said Chen. "They do something for these children to make their time good quality time, to see that child smile."

One of the very few good things to come out of the Veterans Day blizzard was a $50 check from Janice K. Eury of Burke. It was written in honor of two very good samaritans.

The good sams did their good deed beside the Pentagon. Janice didn't want to be there on the snowy afternoon of Nov. 11. But like so many motorists that day, Janice suddenly found herself stuck because her car engine quit. She hand-lettered a sign that read "JUMPER CABLES?" and sat back to wait.

Within minutes, a man in a blue truck stopped to see what the trouble was. He had no jumper cables, but he told Janice he wouldn't leave until someone arrived who did.

Within a few more minutes, a nurse from a psychiatric hospital stopped. She did have cables. Janice was soon on her way home again.

"I am enclosing a check for Children's Hospital," Janice writes. "Since I can't thank them, I would like to present a token of appreciation on their behalf."

Hasn't someone done you a favor recently? Wouldn't a check for sick kids be a good way to say thanks?


Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.