Rick Santorum drops White House bid following daughter's hospitalization: What is Trisomy 18?

FILE - In this June 6, 2011 file photo, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds his daughter Isabella before announcing he is entering the Republican presidential race, on the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerset, Pa. Santorum canceled his morning campaign events, Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, and planned to spend time with his hospitalized daughter, Bella. Isabella Santorum has Trisomy 18, a genetic condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 18th chromosome. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File) AP

bella santorum, trisomy 18
In this June 6, 2011 file photo, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum holds his daughter Isabella before announcing he is entering the Republican presidential race, on the steps of the Somerset County Courthouse in Somerset, Pa.
AP

(CBS News) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum announced Tuesday that he would suspend his campaign for the presidency. The announcement comes after Santorum took time off from his campaign over Easter weekend to spend time with his 3-year-old daughter Bella, who had been hospitalized in Virginia. Bella was born with a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy 18.

Rick Santorum ends bid for GOP nominationTrisomy 18 in spotlight after Rick Santorum's daughter Bella hospitalized

Santorum said Tuesday afternoon that Bella had recovered after a "difficult weekend," but that the situation "did cause us to think in the role that we have as parents in her life," Political Hotsheetreported. He said that "this was a time for prayer and thought over this past weekend," and that the decision to suspend the campaign had been made during that period.

How's Bella now?

"She's a fighter," Santorum said at his Tuesday press conference. "She's doing exceptionally well."

CBS News reported that Bella was discharged from a Virginia hospital on Monday night.

Trisomy 18 is a life-threatening genetic condition caused by an extra 18th chromosome (people are typically born with two). Also known as Edward's Syndrome, the condition is three times more common in girls than in boys. According to the National Institutes of Health, that extra chromosome interferes with a child's normal development, causing such defects as permanently clenched hands and crossed legs, undeveloped fingernails, feet with rounded bottoms, a smaller head and jaw, mental deficiencies, and heart and kidney problems.

According to the Support Organization for Trisomy 18, 13 and Related Disorders (SOFT), more than 90 percent of children with Trisomy 18 have a "congenital heart malformation" which may make it difficult for the heart to pump blood correctly. The organization also says more than 50 percent of children with the condition have hearing loss, while 10 percent have eye birth defects and up to 10 percent have a cleft lip. Other common disorders that may present with Trisomy 18 include feeding difficulties, sleep apnea, seizures, scoliosis, kidney defects and developmental disabilities.

Unlike Down syndrome, which is caused by an extra 21st chromosome, the issues caused by Trisomy 18 are associated with life-threatening medical complications and 50 percent of babies with Trisomy 18 who are carried to term are stillborn, according to the Trisomy 18 Foundation.

The foundation says that a small number of adults - typically girls - with Trisomy 18 "have and are living into their twenties and thirties," although with significant developmental delays that may not allow them to live independently.

Bella was hospitalized with pneumonia and complications from the genetic disorder earlier this year in January, HealthPopreported.

"Going to the hospital certainly is not something that would be unexpected," Dr. Brian McDonough, clinical professor of family medicine at Temple University who is not involved in Bella's care, told CBS Philly at the time. "But every time a child goes to the hospital with Trisomy-18, you worry a great deal."

The National Institutes of Health has more on Trisomy 18.

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