By MAGGIE HABERMAN | 5/12/12 10:51 AM EDT
Rick Santorum has left the trail, but his daughter Bella, who was born with a genetic condition that normally results in death within the first year of life, turns four today.
Santorum, who has talked about his daughter with great frequency on the trail, wrote an email to his supporters' list for the occasion, looking to turn the birthday into a Twitter trend.
Full email is below.
Nearly four years ago, on May 13, 2008, Karen and I welcomed our youngest daughter, Isabella, into our family. As with the birth of any child, it was a joyous time, but was also not without its share of heartache as we learned more about Bella's condition - Trisomy 18 - and the impact it would have on her and on our family for the rest of her life.
The news from doctors was bleak, and the odds were stacked against Bella. Of the 10% of babies with Trisomy 18 who survive birth, 90% won't make it to their first birthday. Ten days after her birth, we brought Bella home, and doctors prepared us for how she was going to die. Frankly, this made us angry; Karen and I were not going to just let Bella go, we were going to fight to give her the opportunity and the chance to do as well as she could.
We did just that. We celebrated her life every day, and took nothing for granted, rejoicing in every day we had withher.
And since those early, difficult days, an amazing thing has happened: Bella has defied all of the odds. Nearly four years later, Bella is a ray of sunshine at the center of our family's universe, every day inspiring our family with her joyful spirit.
Now, with Bella's 4th birthday just a few days away, Karen and I would like to invite you to share in our joy and celebration by sending Bella a written or video birthday wish on our website. We know that these well-wishes from you all will make this milestone birthday even more special.
And today, Friday, May 11, we ask you to take one more step for Bella by Tweeting her a birthday wish and adding thehashtag #happybirthdaybella. Wouldn't it be amazing to see #happybirthdaybella take Twitter by storm?
We are so blessed and grateful for our family and for you all, and deeply appreciate you helping to make Bella's 4th birthday just a little more special.
Happy Birthday, Bella!
Rick & Karen Santorum
P.S. For all of the moms out there -- Happy Mother's Day!