It has been a long process for Sarah Streeval. The Adair County native has fought tooth and nail over the last two years to bring the disease of cytomegalovirus to the forefront of everyone’s attention. The rare disease took the life of Streeval’s young daughter. Bella, in 2020.
Streeval got the chance to bring her story to the state level last week when she spoke in front of legislators at the June interim Health and Welfare Committee meeting in Frankfort. She was there to highlight Gov. Andy Beshear’s signing of a proclamation making June CMV Awareness Month.
“It is a rollercoaster,” said Streeval. “We started with Bella’s Bill during the last regular session. During discussions with the House and the Senate, they suggested we shelf it and come back during the interim. So we went to Frankfort and we were able to take photos, a slide show. We were able to educate them even further.”
Bella was diagnosed with cytomegalovirus at birth. It impacts around one in every 200 births each year.
“Getting the proclamation signed by the governor is a great way to get the word out about CMV,” Streeval said. “I want the legislators to understand this is worthy of their time and effort. A lot of the misconceptions about CMV are out there – that it is so rare, that we can’t do anything about it. I want them to see all the families that have joined us in the battle and let them hear their stories.”
One of Streeval’s greatest advocates has been Sen. Max Wise.
“It was an honor to have Sarah at the June interim Health and Welfare Committee meeting and to hear her share Bella Dawn’s story. Her strength and story was heartfelt and had every committee member fully engaged,” Wise said. “The advocacy and awareness that she and countless others are doing for CMV is to be commended. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the 2022 session on Bella’s Law and seeing this become a reality in Kentucky.”
Streeval said there is a lot of work still to be done, but she would like to see the creation of a task force that would be able to focus on CMV in Kentucky and how it is being treated. She said her goal for the trip to Frankfort was to give legislators an introduction to the disease. She said she plans to head back to Frankfort during the next regular session.
Until then, Streeval said she’s going to keep telling everyone about CMV and the effects it has on babies and their families.
“We heard from the legislators and they all loved Bella and her story,” Streeval said. “A lot of them have misinformation about CMV, about it being more rare and that they can’t do anything about it. We heard (from the legislators) what’s done is done and that is discouraging.
“CMV attacks in utero, but a lot can be done after birth. Maybe we can’t affect the baby in utero, but we can do something.”
By Scott Wilson