Gotta love Bella

February 5, 2012 

A few weeks ago, during one of the numerous GOP debates, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum mentioned he was looking forward to taking the red eye home to see his daughter, Isabella Maria.

Bella, as Sen. Santorum calls her, had undergone surgery earlier that day. The 3-year-old suffers from Trisomy 18, a genetic disorder. That is, she has three copies of the 18th chromosome instead of two.

This past Friday Santorum revealed that his daughter almost died last weekend. He told reporters that it was a very hectic 36 hours, but she rallied in what he called a “miraculous turnaround” after a serious bout of pneumonia.

Stories that the Santorum family openly share about Bella indicate that shortly after her delivery doctors told them that she was born with the rare disease that resembles Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21). Their newborn baby girl was given only hours or a few days to live.

In a Washington Post article this week focusing on Trisomy 18, Dr. Robert Marion, an expert in the field of genetics at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, explained the disease causes abnormalities in the development of the brain, heart and other internal organs. According to Marion, almost half the children born with the condition die within three months of life. “Ninety percent die in the first year and the 10 percent who survive have severe development problems.”

Marion says it is not unusual for a child with Trisomy 18 to contract pneumonia, from which Bella is recovering.

Santorum returned to the campaign trail last Tuesday. As the Florida primary results poured in that gave Mitt Romney a solid victory, I watched on television as the former senator was interviewed. He systematically talked politics, specifically about his third place finish in the Sunshine State, and tried to remain optimistic about the upcoming caucuses and primaries.

I think Santorum’s strength is rooted in hammering frontrunner Mitt Romney over Massachusetts’ health care plan. The plan that Gov. Romney launched in that state has been called identical to Obamacare by Sen. Santorum. He seems to hit a certain stride when he talks about it on the campaign trail and in the debates.

Santorum’s home state of Pennsylvania will conduct its primary on Tuesday, April 24. It remains to be seen if the former senator can maintain momentum to reach March, much less April. It doesn’t look promising.

It wasn’t until near the end of the interview when CNN inquired about the well-being of little Bella did Santorum’s face light-up. Beaming, the grateful father said, “She is much better ... seeing the outpouring of support from folks frankly on both sides of the aisle, from across this country, of all political stripes toward me and Karen and particularly to our daughter Bella, I just want to say to everyone, thank you for that support and prayers.”

The example of friends of Santorum reaching out from both the Republican and Democratic camps is a fresh reminder of the sincerity and generosity of people, regardless of ideology, in times of crisis.

Even though there is a time and season for the fervent dogma, cynicism and skepticism in the political atmosphere, members of both political parties can be civil when it comes to life and death situations.

Whatever happens with Santorum’s candidacy, he should be proud of a fine campaign and the fact he’s created the groundwork for a bright future in the Republican Party. Santorum has proven there is solid decency in the political process.

As far as his daughter, you’ve gotta love her. She’s opened the eyes and hearts of millions of Americans and raised awareness to the challenges that families with special needs children experience every day.

Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program.

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