Baby born with heart outside body leaves hospital

January 25, 2013 10:00:27 AM PST
Many of us remember the pictures of the tiny baby who was born here with a third of her heart beating outside her body. On Wednesday, little Audrina Cardenas left the hospital, three months after the surgery to put her heart back where it belongs.

"She's doing really good. She'll be going home on a little bit of oxygen, but very little. She'll going home on a feeding tube but hopefully with OT help, we will help her get on a bottle," Audrina's mom, Ashley Cardenas, said.

And she's come a long way since she was born October 15 with one-third of her heart outside her body. During a six-hour surgery, Texas Children's Hospital doctors reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for her heart. But she doesn't have a bony breast plate to protect her heart, so they made her one -- a pink chest shield.

"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 -- 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," Cardenas said.

In the future, Audrina will have another surgery and Texas Children's doctors will make a sternum for her out of some of her ribs. But Cardenas loves her just the way she is.

"In a mother's eyes sometimes you don't see, you don't see her any other way," Cardenas said.

She packed Audrina's toys and clothes, getting ready to leave the hospital, but not Houston. The baby needs to be near the hospital for awhile.

Dr. Charles Fraser is a heart surgeon. He did a last-minute check on Audrina, and Cardenas walked out with the infant's other doctors and nurses who were critical in giving her daughter a chance. She was happy to leave, a little daunted by all the medical equipment she's going to have to handle but grateful too.

Only eight babies in a million are born with this rare congenital malformation. Most don't live longer than three days. Audrina is one of the few who is doing well enough to leave the hospital.
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