Just: wow. Our admiration for what is the miracle of modern medicine grew exponentially this week when baby Audrina Cardenas, born last October with part of her heart on the outside of her body, left the hospital.
When her mother Ashley learned of the very rare and typically fatal condition 16 weeks into her pregnancy, she was given options like terminating the pregnancy then and there, or providing only “comfort care” while she watched her child die soon after birth. Known as ectopia cordis, Audrina’s condition occurs in about eight of every 1 million babies, 90 percent of which are either stillborn or die within days of birth.
But there was a third option: a very difficult, often unsuccessful surgery to correct the condition, and doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital thought what they were seeing on Ashley Cardenas’ ultrasound looked promising. Only about a third of the heart was outside the body and the fetus did not appear to have any of the other congenital conditions that usually accompany the condition.
Thus the decision was made: The day after her birth on October 15, baby Audrina underwent a six-hour open-heart surgery performed by a team of cardiovascular, pediatric, and plastic surgeons at Texas Children’s that involved reconstructing her chest cavity to make room for the protruding part of her heart.
Three months later, Audrina exited the hospital in a cleverly constructed pink chest shield to protect the vulnerable area—and matching pink bow on her head. For now she’ll still need to be on oxygen and a feeding tube, and there will be more surgeries to correct some other relatively minor heart conditions. But thanks to an amazing team of surgeons, this little girl likely has birthday parties, report cards, and prom dresses in her future.