(EWTN NEWS)—Presidential candidate Rick Santorum just released a heartfelt video introducing one of his eight children: 3-year-old Isabella Maria, who has a condition similar to Down syndrome.
“At the last debate, I mentioned how I was looking forward to taking the red eye home to see my 3-year-old daughter, Bella, since she had surgery earlier that day,” Santorum said in an Oct. 27 statement.
Following the debate, Santorum said he and his wife Karen — both Catholic and married for 20 years — were “touched by the tremendous outpouring” of emails and calls from supporters voicing their prayers for Bella.
“She’s doing great and is back to her joyful, smiley self,” Santorum said. And since “so many of you were asking about her,” he added, “we wanted to share this video to introduce her to you.”
In the three-minute clip, the presidential hopeful recalls the birth of his brown-eyed, curly haired “special girl” three years ago and the immediate concern doctors had.
“When she was born, we knew something was wrong, but we didn’t know what it was,” he said. “It wasn’t until five days later that they came back and told Karen and I that she had a disorder called Trisomy 18, which is similar to Down syndrome.”
The couple was told that Bella’s life expectancy was a matter of hours and days.
Although they were “blessed to have her” for any amount of time, Santorum remembers being told by the medical community at hand: “Why do anything? Just let her go. She’s not going to be able to do much or be able to be like normal children.”
“It angered us to hear that because she was our daughter like every other one of our children,” he said. “(W)e felt we owed her the opportunity and the chance to do as well as she could.”
Santorum also recalls a doctor visiting the family soon after Bella was taken home who described how Bella was going to die and what precautions the family should take to assist the baby.
When the doctor left, “Karen and I said to each other, ‘We’re not going to focus on her dying; we’re going to focus on her living, and we’re going to do everything we can to help her.’”
“Over the past few years, she has been a wonderful, joyful center of the universe for our family,” Santorum said. “We just thank God every day that we have her — I would say Bella makes us better.”
“Some people describe people like Bella as disabled — and I look at her, and I look at the joy and the simplicity and the love that she emits, and it’s clear to me that we’re the disabled ones. Not her.”
“She’s got a great, beautiful spirit,” he noted. “And we can learn a lot from that.”