GOP hopeful Rick Santorum has been in the news a lot as of late, but not as much for his politics as for a health issue facing one of his children.


Santorum's youngest daughter, Bella, has the genetic disorder Trisomy 18. And it has a lot of us, myself included, curious about just what this serious condition means for Santorum and his daughter.


Trisomy 18, also known as Edwards syndrome, is caused by a chromosomal defect in which a person has a third copy of material from chromosome 18 instead of the usual two copies. It sounds like a lot of medical jargon, but the bottom line is that it is a very serious, yet somewhat common condition. It occurs in about 1 out of every 3,000 live births. And it occurs three times more frequently in girls than in boys.  


Symptoms of Trisomy 18 include clenched hands, rounded feet, a small head and jaw, low-set ears and underdeveloped fingernails. Its more serious symptoms include low birth weight, heart defects, kidney dysfunction, underdeveloped digestive system and severe developmental delays.  


Treatment for children with Trisomy 18 varies for each patient, but in almost all cases, the prognosis is grim. According to the National Library of Medicine data on the disease, "half of infants with this condition do not survive beyond the first week of life. Some children have survived to the teenage years, but with serious medical and developmental problems."


What does this tragic diagnosis mean for Santorum and his daughter? On a personal level, Santorum will have many hard and trying days ahead of him — days that no parent should have to face. And the question now is whether or not this makes him an unsuitable candidate for president. But according to Santorum, it is because of Bella that he is running at all. In recent interviews, Santorum has said that he is unhappy with Obama's health care initiatives and feels that they would marginalize care for children like Bella.  


Now, I won't pretend to agree with Santorum's politics, but as a parent I have to say that I respect his decision to fight the good fight for his daughter.  

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