A baby born with her heart outside of her body three months ago has defied the odds and was sent home with her mother on Wednesday.
Audrina Cardenas was determined to have ectopia cordis, a condition in which the heart is formed outside the chest cavity, reports CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston. The extremely rare malformation occurs in about eight out of every one million births. It's often deadly -- about 90 percent of affected babies are stillborn or die within three days of birth.
Audrina's mother, Ashley Cardenas of Midland, Texas, found out that her baby had the congenital heart defect during the 16th week of pregnancy. She told KHOU last November that she was given three options: terminate the pregnancy, give birth and let her daughter pass away naturally or let her child undergo risky surgery minutes after birth. Ashley chose the latter.
"As you can tell, that little girl is here and (it was) the best choice ever!" Cardenas said to KHOU.
On Oct. 16, 2012, doctors at Texas Children's Hospital performed a six-hour open heart surgery on Audrina. In order to get her heart back in her body, they had to make space in her chest cavity. About one-third of her heart was outside when she was born.
See video taken during the surgery below. Warning: Video may be graphic for some users.
"I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases; in fact, many of these babies do not survive," Dr. Charles D. Fraser, surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children's Hospital and professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM), said in a November press release. "If Audrina would not have been referred to a facility like ours that could provide this full spectrum of care from managing her in-utero to immediate heart surgery after birth, she would not be here today. Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome."
Audrina did not have any other syndromes or genetic abnormalities that would have put stress on her heart, so she was allowed to go home on Jan. 23. She has to wear a specially-made pink heart protector over her chest, which still moves as her heart beats. When she is older, doctors will perform further reconstructive surgery using her rib bone to create a sternum.
"I'm very excited, very anxious, nervous all at once that we're able to go home," Ashley said to KHOU Wednesday. "But it's a very, very big step. It's been a blessing to say that we're finally going home after three and a half months."