Audrina Cardenas has certainly defied odds as she was finally being discharged from Texas Children’s Hospital. The 3 month old baby was born with an extremely rare condition called ectopia cordis, which means she was born with her heart outside of her chest. She received her life-saving surgery in October and is now at home.

Ectopia cordis is a very uncommon congenital malformation which results in the heart developing either partially or completely outside the body, it only affects approximately eight in every million babies. Sadly, most infants who are born with the condition die within the first few days of life.

A multidisciplinary team of surgeons carried out a very risky surgical procedure to repair Audrina’s heart immediately after she was born. She proved to be quite the survivor as she came out of the operation alive and well.

Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), said:

“This risky operation on such an uncommon condition required specialists from a variety of care teams including cardiovascular surgery, plastic surgery and general pediatric surgery. I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases; in fact, many of these babies do not survive.”

He added:

“If Audrina would not have been referred to a facility like ours that could provide this full spectrum of care from managing her in-utero to immediate heart surgery after birth, she would not be here today. Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome.”

Audrina’s mother Ashley Cardenas found out about her child’s condition sixteen weeks into her pregnancy. Her doctors told her that she could either choose comfort care, terminate the pregnancy, or have her child receive an extremely risky surgery immediately after birth. Cardenas opted for the surgery as it was in the best interest for her child’s survival.

Cardenas said:

“After my doctors explained just how sick my baby was and what options I had, it didn’t matter how scared I was, I knew I had to do anything possible to save my daughter’s life. As soon as I made my decision to continue with the pregnancy, the physicians in Midland referred me to Texas Children’s Hospital where a team of miracle workers provided the specialized treatment and care my baby and I both needed.”

The doctors made an external chest shield to protect her heart as it continues to grow, in a few years she will have another surgery to place something even more protective and permanent. The cardiology team at Texas Children’s Hospital will consistently check up on her progress.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist