Baby born with heart outside body defies odds

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - A West Texas family is grateful for a Thanksgiving miracle this year.

Their baby girl, Audrina Cardenas, was born with a rare congenital abnormality, called ectopia cordis, in which the heart is located partially or totally outside the chest.

Only eight in every 1 million babies are born with it and 90 percent of those do not survive.

Thanks to early diagnosis and the quick action of a team of medical specialists in the Texas Medical Center, little Audrina will live to see her first Thanksgiving holiday.

Her mother, Ashley Cardenas, told Local 2, "It's amazing! You know, every day I thank God, you know, for her, for her being here."

Audrina was diagnosed at 16 weeks gestational age.

Cardenas and her family live in Odessa and their physician referred them to Texas Children's Hospital, where a team of specialists came up with a plan to save her baby.

TCH Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser told Local 2, "It's really strange I have to say, and I've looked at a lot of hearts! (In Audrina's case,) the tip of the heart is turned up ... so what you're actually seeing is about a third of each ventricle is outside, which is a significant part of the heart."

Born full term via cesarean section on Oct. 16, Audrina was immediately rushed into a six-hour surgery to correct the problem.

Now, five weeks after surgery, Audrina is recovering in the NICU, getting stronger every day. She is the longest living baby in Texas to have been born with this rare condition.

Fraser added, "Right now what we have over the heart is skin and a bit of muscle, so she doesn't have a breast plate like we have. So, someday, we're going to have to do an operation to provide a more durable protector over the heart because she's going to want to do the things that children do."

Cardenas said, "She's made it this far and I know within time, (we) just have to be patient, and within time, she'll be home. She'll be home with our family."

Cardenas tells us her hope is that Audrina will be home in time for Christmas.

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