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Loss to law; Adair Co. mother raises awareness for virus that took young daughter’s life

Published: Jan. 26, 2021 at 5:42 PM CST
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - An Adair County mother is taking the tragic death of her young daughter and using it to raise awareness of the deadly virus that not many people know about.

“She had the best laugh,” said Sarah Streeval, mother of Bella Dawn Streeval. “We would have doctors just come by our room. Just to hear her laugh and to see her smile. She has the biggest blue eyes. She was gorgeous.”

Though a fairly normal pregnancy for Streeval, her daughter Bella was diagnosed with a viral infection at birth, known as cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection.

“I hadn’t even got to see her yet. She was immediately taken away and we did not know what was wrong,” said Streeval after her daughter’s birth.

Based on CDC statistics, Streeval has estimated that 270 infants in Kentucky are born with CMV each year. Health complications can stem from the virus, which Streeval says she never knew about.

“Within the first year, we started having seizures, which is one of the biggest effects of CMV. And we found out she was profoundly deaf,” explained Streeval.

By the time Bella turned two, Streeval says she had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy, microcephaly. In addition to that seizure disorder, she was also legally blind.

This past April, Bella lost her life after complications from the virus, two months after her third birthday.

“So we had a blowout for her third birthday. And so just after that, she went into hospice care,” said Streeval.

The shocking diagnosis and death led Sarah to push for Senate Bill 91, or Bella’s Bill. The goal aims to test all infants in Kentucky at birth for CMV and to also provide educational material to expectant mothers.

“No one told us anything about CMV. And so all of a sudden to get told that there’s this virus that no one knows anything about,” explained Streeval.

Bill Sponsor, Senator Max Wise of Campbellsville (District 16-R-KY) says he doesn’t anticipate extensive funding for the bipartisan bill.

“I see this as it should be a no-cost,” he said. “It should be something that... if you’re doing 20 other screenings, why not put this one also there as well. The education literature material, that can be what I would consider a minimal cost as well.”

As an advocate raising awareness for CMV, Streeval hopes to see this bill become law in the near future. She says she is finding strength and inspiration through all this while reflecting on the precious yet short years with her daughter.

“She was just a little bit of heaven, I believe. And I think sometimes we’re given an angel. And, you know, we didn’t get to keep her for long enough. And that’s, you know, that’s hard. We were blessed to have her.”

The city of Columbia has proclaimed next week CMV Awareness Week. Bella would have been four next week.

The legislature goes back in session in February but there is a time crunch as it’s going to be a shorter session. Senator Wise says he hopes the bill can be called up for a committee vote. If it passes, it will go to the Senate floor and then the House.

“It is a tragedy, but also an inspiration of a young child, who maybe can have a lasting impact, so we will have a memory there to carry on for the family. But I really feel like this will be very partisan in nature.”

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