Each year during our fund-raising campaign on behalf of Children's Hospital, I report on how the hospital treats kids with familiar diseases. But sometimes the hospital treats kids with obscure ailments -- and sometimes it saves their lives. So it went for a 7-year-old Bethesda boy over the last two years. My associate, Deborah Schwartz, has this report:

When 5-year-old Austin Addis began having chronic ear infections a year and a half ago, his mother wasn't alarmed at first. Toya O'Hora-Diamond knew that most children get them. And Austin, who was in nursery school at the time, had never had any serious health problems.

But when Austin began complaining of severe pain, his mother became concerned. It was a good thing she did.

Austin turned out to have been experiencing the warning signs of an extremely rare and serious neurological disease called moyamoya. The disease causes repeated strokes and can permanently impair or kill those who suffer from it.

"First he would say, 'My head hurts.' Then he would say 'No, my ear hurts,' " Austin's mother recalled. "And it was just continuing so much and pain seemed to be increasing.

"{Ear infections} are very common. The doctors would put him on medicine and wouldn't think much of it. But then the pain seemed to get progressively worse and he'd be holding his head.

"After an ear infection, it usually cleared up in a couple of days. You'd send him back to school and he seemed to be all right for a week or so at a time. But by the beginning of May {1986}, it was more severe. So I took him to an ear nose and throat doctor."

The sepecialist said that ear infections should not be causing him that much pain. He suggested that Toya take Austin to a neurologist. So she called the head of neurology at Children's Hospital.

When Toya placed the call, Dr. Joan Conry, a staff neurologist, came to the phone.

"Immediately, when it's that much pain, you think it's a brain tumor or something. And then {Dr. Conry} put me very much at ease. She said it's probably not a brain tumor because you wouldn't have that type of pain. She talked to me for a very long time -- 20 minutes or so -- on the phone," said Toya.

Within three days, Austin had an appointment to see Dr. Conry. The day after the appointment, "I thought he was progressively worse," Toya recalls. "He was up all night. He was holding his head and he was vomiting. And the next morning he said, 'I can't feel anything in my right arm.'

"I would touch it and he couldn't feel it and he couldn't squeeze it and so I called {Dr. Conry} at the hospital and got her right away and she said, 'Bring him in. I think he's having a stroke.'

"And the strangest thing was, I didn't think of calling an ambulance. I just picked up Austin and threw him in the car {at their home in Bethesda} and drove to Children's.

"I didn't even think to take him to the emergency room. All I heard {Dr. Conry} say was, 'Bring him to me.' And I carried him. By then he had completely collapsed. There was no feeling in his right side. I carried him up in my arms with a blanket around him."

Austin spent the next four days at Children's. At that time, Dr. Conry and doctors from other departments were working on the hypothesis that the stroke was the byproduct of a migraine.

After Austin's pain was under control, he was released. But he had difficulty walking and had lost many of his motor skills.

"He was very frustrated because he could not do what he used to do and he could not pick up things with his right hand. Somebody would have to feed him," said Toya.

A couple of weeks after Austin's first stroke, Toya took him back to Children's for a checkup. At the time, Austin's doctors were planning physical and occupational therapy for him so he could relearn many of the skills he had lost because of the stroke.

"He couldn't manipulate {his right hand}. His right arm would just be there. He would use it as a helper but he had almost completely then switched to his left hand," said Toya.

"I actually thought that {the use of his right side} would come back. I never really thought that this child wouldn't get better.

"But when I did say, 'Is he going to die?,' {Dr. Conry} said that was a possibility. But I, for some reason, didn't hear that."

The night of that checkup, Austin was in pain. It appeared to Toya that Austin's left side was affected this time. He was also having trouble seeing.

"The real concern to me at that point was that he couldn't see. I thought, 'This is real serious here.' This is not something that therapy is going to cure," said Toya.

Dr. Conry makes a habit of giving her home phone number to parents of patients who might need it. Toya called Dr. Conry at home that night. The doctor told Toya to take Austin to the emergency room at Children's right away. By the time they arrived, Austin couldn't see at all.

This time Austin spent eight days at Children's. By the time he was released, some of his eyesight was returning. But he had lost depth perception and had tunnel vision.

After the second stroke, an arteriogram (an X-ray of the arteries in the brain) was performed on Austin to find out why he was having strokes. As a result of the arteriogram, Dr. Conry determined that Austin had moyamoya.

Moyamoya is most commonly seen in people of Japanese descent. The word translates as "puff of smoke," which is the way the effects of the disease appear in X-rays. Moyamoya causes blood vessels in the brain to narrow. In the absence of treatment, the disease leads to repeated strokes and death.

Austin is not obviously Japanese. However, he was adopted shortly after birth in Bogota, Colombia, and may have Japanese ancestors.

To look at him now, Austin appears to have only minor residual effects from the two strokes. He runs rather than walks through the halls of the family home. He slams doors like any 7-year-old.

However, he must sit extremely close to the TV set -- a carryover from the vision troubles caused by his second stroke. Any task requiring dexterity, such as tying shoes, is still difficult for him. And when Austin is unable to think of a word (the result of aphasia, which also developed after the second stroke), he must find another way to describe what he wants to say -- such as pointing at a picture.

Austin is being treated with verapmil, a calcium channel blocker, which is often given to heart patients. It seems to be controlling Austin's illness for the moment.

"It's encouraging. The fact that he's had no symptoms in the past 18 months is not typical for moyamoya. I'm a little bit surprised that he's been so stable for the last 18 months and I'm hopeful that he'll stay this way," said Dr. Conry.

Toya O'Hora-Diamond says it isn't a matter of hope. She thinks it's a matter of Dr. Joan Conry.

"Dr. Conry is responsible for this child being alive," Toya said. "I firmly believe that she in particular was smart enough and intuitive enough and had read enough {about the disease and the drug}," said Toya.

"She's human. She makes doctoring human." TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

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