Little Audrina Cardenas is now four-and-a-half months old and sports a pink hair bow and pink toenails.
The little bitty girl is winning a man-sized struggle for survival. Audrina was born with a third of her heart beating on the outside of her body. A day after her birth, she endured a six-hour surgery in which Texas Children's Hospital surgeons rebuilt her chest and put her heart inside her body.
Audrina is now out of the hospital but has to stay nearby because she still needs oxygen and a feeding tube.
"She has a feeding tube and a breathing tube right now and it doesn't even matter. It's all worth it. She's a smiling, happy-go-lucky baby," said Audrina's mom, Ashley Cardenas.
Cardenas has learned to use the medical equipment and is hoping the therapy Audrina is getting will help her learn to swallow so she finally can take a bottle.
Audrina has no sternum to protect her heart so doctors built her a little pink shield. And if you look closely, you still can see her little heart beating beneath her skin. She'll wear the shield outside until doctors build her a sternum out of her ribs that they hope will grow with her.
Doctors still don't know if she'll need another heart surgery, but right now she's growing and thriving.
"It's been very difficult, but worth it," Cardenas said.
Audrina received blood several times in ICU. Ashley is grateful to her blood donors and encourages others to donate.
"We've been so blessed this whole time to come this far, especially with her diagnosis. We feel we should be able to give back some way," Cardenas said.
Cardenas is looking forward to spring break when her twins, who are staying with their grandmother, will come for another visit with their baby sister. She says one of the hardest parts of the past five months has been the separation from the rest of the family.
Doctors have not told her when she can go home to Midland.
Cardenas plans to join us at the ABC 13 Studios on Friday for our annual Spring Blood Drive. She was a blood donor before Audrina was born, and wants to help because so many have helped her baby. If you can donate blood, we invite you to come anytime between 6am until 6pm the Channel 13 studio or other locations around Houston.
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