Caitlyn Michaels has become a young advocate in bringing awareness to children’s eye health, most recently with a county law in her name.
On Tuesdays, Caitlyn Michaels has chemotherapy treatments. But last Tuesday, while most kids were on spring break, she sat between her county legislator and the county executive as they signed a law she had pushed for that also bears her name.
Michaels, 9, of Mastic, was diagnosed in November with anterior bilateral uveitis, a rare eye disease that is the third-leading cause of blindness in children. It was hard for her family to find doctors to treat her, many of whom saying they couldn’t perform treatments on a child. Their experience before landing on an appropriate treatment plan made Michaels and her family frustrated, which sprung her into action.
“She’s an ambitious little girl,” said her mother, Kim Michaels.
Caitlyn’s disease was caught early, which allowed for an adequate treatment plan. She will undergo a low dose of chemotherapy for two to three years. She is considered to be in medicated remission.
Several months ago, Legis. Rudy Sunderman visited a Girl Scout troop meeting, of which Caitlyn is a member. He told them that if they ever needed help with anything to reach out to his office. Caitlyn took him up on that offer.
On April 4, the health committee of the county Legislature unanimously approved the resolution written by Sunderman, which designates August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month in Suffolk County. It received unanimous approval in the full Legislature on April 9. County executive Steve Bellone signed the legislation at the Mastic Beach Fire Department on April 17.
“She used her own experience after being diagnosed with a rare eye disease to help other kids,” Bellone said.
Through the law, the Suffolk County Health Department will be directed to implement updated information about eye health and urge families through its various programs to get regular checkups. Kim Michaels said at the ceremony that they really wanted to advocate for frequent exams and early detection of issues, which was key for Caitlyn. Officials agreed that Caitlyn’s advocacy for the issue and her willingness to go after what she wanted from her government serves as a model for others.
“I want this to serve as an example to other kids that, like Caitlyn did, you can make a difference,” Sunderman said.
Caitlyn told the Advance that she felt “special” having a law named after her. Her family, along with father Matt and brother Carter, and her Girl Scout troop joined her as she watched her bill being signed into law.
She gets to keep a copy.