Eight-year-old Caitlyn Michiels wrote to her legislator, Rudy Sunderman, last month to bring his attention to an issue close to her heart. Caitlyn explained that she had been diagnosed with a rare eye disease known as anterior bilateral uveitis, which is the third-leading cause of blindness in children.
Over the past four months, she has seen multiple doctors and has undergone multiple treatments, including a low-dose chemotherapy treatment. Due to the rarity of the disease, not much is known about it or how it is treated, so Caitlyn’s goal in writing was to raise awareness about children’s eye health. She had remembered that Sunderman had spoken to her Girl Scout troop and told the girls that if they ever needed help with anything they could contact him.
When Sunderman received Caitlyn’s letter, he did not hesitate and began working on a resolution that would designate the month of August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month in Suffolk County.
While August had already been designated as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month in other states and counties across the country, Suffolk County had yet to do so. The resolution stresses the importance of children receiving routine eye exams because early detection is usually the first step in preventing disease from spreading. The resolution also directs the Suffolk County Department of Health Services to develop educational materials on eye health in children and to distribute these materials, and calls for promotion and education on the Department’s webpage and via social media during the month of August.
What has become known as Caitlyn’s Resolution was first assigned to the Suffolk County Legislature’s Health Committee to be taken under consideration at its April 4 meeting. Caitlyn attended this meeting with her family and her Girl Scout leader with a prepared speech about her illness and all she has gone through. Caitlyn’s story immediately touched the heart of Health Committee chair Legis. William Spencer and all the members of the committee, who agreed to co-sponsor this important legislation.
Caitlyn’s Resolution then went before the full Suffolk County Legislature on April 9. It was approved unanimously, and Caitlyn received a standing ovation for her hard work and advocacy.