Houston, TX – A baby born with her heart outside the body survived surgery and is now heading home with her mother. Baby Audrina was born to Ashley Cardenas, age 25.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Audrina Cardenas was born on October 15 with a very rare condition called ectopia cordis, “where a baby’s heart is located either partially or totally outside the chest. Only 8 out of 1 million babies are born with the condition, and 90 percent of those babies are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life.” Baby Audrina’s condition was discovered 16 weeks into the pregnancy when an ultrasound showed the developing malformation of the heart.
The mother told ABC about the decision she had to make after hearing the bad news:
“I was told that it is a very rare condition and that the survival rates are really low and that if she did survive they don’t know what kind of life she will have. They gave me the option to terminate the pregnancy, continue with the pregnancy and do something called comfort care at the time of delivery, where instead of doing anything painful to her or do 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.”
Dr. Charles Fraser and his team of cardiovascular, pediatric and plastic surgeons at the Texas Children’s Hospital performed a six-hour open-heart surgery the day after Audrina’s birth, fashioning a cavity in the chest, putting the protruding heart in it and then stretching skin from elsewhere on her body over it.
A customized pink protective chest shield now helps baby Audrina survive her condition. Audrina does not have a sternum or a breastplate so the chest shield is necessary to live, although future surgeries will attempt to recreate these skeletal structures. Doctors have been checking the condition of her heart protective shield before discharging her. That this baby survived more than a few days is quite an achievement in itself.
Warning: The following YouTube video is graphic in nature because it shows what the baby’s heart looked like before being surgically implanted back into the chest.