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Audrina C .

Port Lavaca, TX

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Hospital: Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX

A routine ultrasound 16 weeks into Ashley Cardenas’ pregnancy uncovered a problem: part of her unborn daughter’s heart was forming outside of the chest. Ashley was given three options: termination, comfort care, or a risky post-delivery surgery. Less than 1 in 100,000 babies are born with ectopia cordis, a rare congenital malformation where the heart is located either partially or totally outside the chest; 90 percent are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life.

On Oct. 16, 2012—one day after Audrina’s birth—surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital saved Audrina’s life during a miraculous six-hour open heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body.

Despite Audrina’s misplaced heart, she was born with no other additional stressors on her heart. Although her future prognosis is uncertain, she is currently thriving, making progress each day.