Audrina Cardenas has a new lease on life thanks to the efforts of doctors at Texas Children's Hospital. The 3-month-old baby girl was born with her heart outside of her chest and doctors were able to successfully put it back inside her body; now the infant is home with her family, who could not be more grateful.
Cardenas' mother, Ashley, told ABCNews that she learned of Audrina's condition when she was only 16 weeks pregnant. The condition, called "ectopia cordis," meant that her heart was growing outside of the chest cavity and could cause death or serious harm to the baby.
"They gave me the option to terminate the pregnancy or continue with the pregnancy and do something called comfort care at the time of delivery, where instead of doing anything painful to her or doing surgery, they let you spend as much time with her until she passes, or opt for a high-risk surgery to help repair the heart," Cardenas said.
She chose to have the high-risk procedure moments after Audrina was born. Doctors released a statement explaining exactly what they did after the little girl was born on Oct. 15.
"A multidisciplinary team of surgeons saved Audrina's life during a miraculous six-hour, open-heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body," the statement read.
The procedure was a success, and Audrina is now thriving three months after the ordeal. She still requires oxygen and is fed through a feeding tube, but her mother could not be happier to have her little girl home. Audrina also requires a chest shield to protect her sensitive, still growing and very delicate chest.
"She doesn't have the sternum. She doesn't have anything over her heart besides the skin and a little muscle that they put over, so this is very important for her to wear," Ashley told KTRK News. "Especially for a car seat, the straps go right on her heart, and if she didn't have anything hard, it would damage her heart."
Audrina will require further surgeries as she grows, but doctors are optimistic about her future.
"Despite Audrina's misplaced heart, she was born with no other syndromes or genetic conditions that would cause additional stress or complications on her heart. Although her future progress is uncertain, Audrina is currently thriving and making progress each day," Cardiologist Dr. Carolyn Altman said in a press release.