When Jason was born five weeks ahead of time at Fauquier Memorial Hospital in Warrenton, his parents were not overly concerned, since he weighed 6 1/2 pounds and the obstetrician pronounced him fit.
"Two days later, he developed respiratory problems because his lungs weren't fully grown," his mother said.
According to a medical article on the infant, he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit of the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville and given two blood transfusions due to anemia.
Seemingly healthy, he was discharged a week later. "But after his fifth month, he started getting sick all the time," she related. "He stopped smiling. They found his liver and spleen were enlarged, but I never knew what he had until after he died. The hospital never told me."
Jason, thin and sickly during his last year, died at 15 months of age.
His family later learned in a letter from one of the baby's specialists that the immune problem he suffered was Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and that their son became sick through one of his blood transfusions. They learned that three other infants became ill from the same blood, but the doctor, the hospital and the Red Cross, which supplied the blood, don't know whether those babies have developed the disease.
"It's been awful," Jason's mother said. "I just can't stop crying sometimes."
Early this year, the University of Virginia Medical Center sued Jason's family for $3,008 in unpaid bills for his hospitalization.
"I could not believe it," his mother said, noting that she and her husband, who is a construction laborer, already have paid hundreds of dollars in medical bills. "My son does not even have a headstone on his grave."
Hospital administrator Dr. John Ashley confirmed that the hospital has sued to recover the remainder of the bill not covered by health insurance. He said the hospital was following state regulations.
"In 1982, Jason received state-of-the-art care," Ashley said. "We only learned to screen for the transmission of the virus for AIDS in the last 60 days." He said the child's infection was "totally beyond our control."
After reviewing the case yesterday, he said the hospital should have asked the family to request a compromise in the bill. "The law allows that in cases when it's in the interest of the patient or the state," he said. "We're willing and able to do that now."
He said the family most likely was not told their son had AIDS, because "the term would not necessarily be applied to an infant."