Children's health

Baby born with heart outside her chest leaves hospital

Jan. 25, 2013 at 2:22 PM ET

Ashley Cardenas prepares her 3 month-old daughter Audrina to leave Texas Children's Hospital.

Audrina Cardenas has beaten the odds.

Born in October with a rare heart condition, she was discharged from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston on Wednesday.

Audrina was born with ectopia cordis, a heart malformation in which the heart is fully or partly outside of the body. On Oct. 16, the day after she was born, doctors performed a six-hour, life-saving operation to make room in her chest cavity for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body, the hospital said.

The condition affects eight out of every 1 million babies each year, the hospital said, and 90 percent either die within the first three days of life or are stillborn.

Today, though, Audrina, is doing very well, the hospital said, and doctors expect her life to be good.

“She's ready to go home,” hospital spokeswoman Jenn Jacome said Friday. "The physicians expect her to lead a pretty healthy and normal life."

“She’ll have some restraints in what she can do,” she said. “Playing sports, that may be up in the air depending on what her cardiologists say.”

Audrina left the hospital with a pink shield to protect her heart, which sits just under the skin and is less protected than the heart typically is, Jacome said. Audrina will need surgery in a few years to have a more permanent shield placed inside her chest, the hospital said on its website.

Audrina’s mother, Ashley, who learned of the malformation when she was 16 weeks pregnant, opted for the risky surgery, rather than ending the pregnancy.

“After my doctors explained just how sick my baby was and what options I had, it didn’t matter how scared I was, I knew I had to do anything possible to save my daughter’s life,” Ashley Cardenas said in a hospital news release.

Cardenas, who is from the Midland-Odessa area, will be staying in a Houston hotel for a while to bring her daughter to follow-up appointments, Jacome said.

Cardenas was excited to be leaving the hospital, Jacome said.

“Mom’s been with her from start to finish,” she said. “I’m sure it’s an exciting milestone. They’ve been here for 3 1/2 months. From the first prognosis and having to make those decisions to being able to take your daughter home, I’m sure that’s just exhilarating for her.”

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