Human Interest

Bella Santorum turns 12 after doctors said her condition was ‘incompatible with life’

bella santorum, trisomy 18

Karen Santorum, the wife of former Senator Rick Santorum, took to Facebook on Wednesday to wish their daughter Bella a happy 12th birthday. Bella was born in 2008 after her parents refused abortion. She had been diagnosed prenatally with Trisomy 18, a condition that doctors often consider to be “incompatible with life.” However, Bella has proven them all wrong.

“Happy 12th Birthday Bella!” wrote Santorum. “The preemie baby that was given no hope is 12 years old and thriving! Her joy and radiance is a gift to all those around her. Bella is so happy and proud of herself when she rides her tricycle, swims in the pool, rides her pony, jumps on her trampoline, and walks down the hallway in her walker. Bella’s birthday is an occasion to pause and think about the beauty and miracle in every life.”

 

In large part thanks to the Santorums, Trisomy 18 is proving to no longer be the death sentence parents are told it is. The couple has been able to help other parents choose life with confidence and secure adequate health care for their children with Trisomy 18. Many doctors refuse to operate on children with the condition who often have a treatable ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart). Yet Children’s Hospital in Omaha—specifically, Dr. James Hammel—is willing to help.

READ: ‘Incompatible with life’? People with Trisomy 18 are proving doctors wrong

“If a family didn’t want surgery for an infant with VSD or tetralogy or even pulmonary atresia, we would take them to court, take the child out of the family and take care of them,” said Dr. Hammel. But when it comes to children with Trisomy 18, many doctors consider it “cruel” to perform surgery even though they will die without it. Up to 80 percent of babies with Trisomy 18 survive heart surgery and 50 percent are still alive 16 years later, explained Dr. Hammel. With proper care, Trisomy 18 is not “incompatible with life.” Once the Santorums were able to access health care for Bella, they began to help other families as well.

“God is so good and He has blessed our family with an angel – a treasure from heaven! Today, and every day, we are eternally grateful to Our Dear Lord for all of His blessings, especially the gift of Isabella Maria,” wrote Santorum. “It is no coincidence that she was born on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. Happy Birthday Beautiful Bell! We love you with all our hearts!”

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