Houston baby born with part of heart outside body thriving at 8 months

She nows wears a protective shield over her tiny chest until doctors can build a chest wall for her

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - The baby that was born in Houston, with her heart beating outside her body, is now thriving at 8-months-old.

Local 2 first brought you Audrina Cardenas' story in November, and since then she's become an advocate for millions of children who rely on Medicaid.

Though her mother, Ashley Cardenas, has worked since the day she turned 16, Audrina is on Medicaid which has helped pay for the surgery that saved her life.

The tiny survivor took her miraculous story to Capitol Hill, hoping to dispel the myths of Medicaid as changes to the program loom.

Ashley told Local 2, "She's happy. It's weird. You think about how can somebody who's been through so much be happy, but she doesn't know anything else."

With her smiling eyes, it's easy to forget the touch and go journey Audrina has been on since doctors discovered that while her mother was pregnant, Audrina had a rare and often fatal heart condition.

Part of her heart was outside of her body.

At one day old, doctors at Texas Children's Hospital performed a life saving surgery to put Audrina's heart back in her body.

She now wears a protective shield over her tiny chest until doctors can build a chest wall for her.

"Audrina has a few more surgeries. She has a few holes in her heart. But after her next surgery, she'll be able to run around and play like a normal baby," Ashley said.

Audrina will rely on a team of specialists throughout her life.
That's why she and her mom Ashley joined 36 other families in Washington D.C. where they visited their congressional representatives on Family Advocacy Day.

Some 30 million children rely on Medicaid.

Six percent have complex conditions like Audrina, accounting for a major chunk of all Medicaid spending.

Texas is one of 19 states that opted out of Medicaid expansion.

Ashley said, "For the Texas lawmakers to see her in person and to see how happy she is will open their eyes as of why Medicaid is important and what kind of effect it takes if it was to be cut. If we didn't have Medicaid, Audrina might not be alive today."

TCH doctors are evaluating Audrina to see when she might be able to have her next surgery to repair her chest wall.

Copyright 2013 by Click2Houston.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.