Little Audrina Cardenas was born with her heart outside her body.

Finally, after three months in hospital, the gorgeous little girl has gone home with mum Ashley, sporting a pink protective shell to protect her heart from damage.

Audrina was born in October with the rare congenital disease ectopia cordis, meaning her heart formed outside the chest.

The condition affects just one in eight million, and sadly nine out of 10 sufferers are stillborn or die within three days.

Following complicated surgery, which lasted six hours, doctors at the Texas Children's Hospital were able to place Audrina's heart back inside her chest. She will now wear the protective shell to help shield the area, and will need more surgeries in coming years to repair other heart defects.

But for now, mum Ashley is celebrating having her little girl back at home.

She was told at 16 weeks into her pregnancy that her baby had the life-threatening condition, and was given three options: abort the baby, carry her to term knowing she would die, or agree to doctors constucting a hole in her baby's chest shortly after birth in an attempt to make room for the heart.

"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," said Ashley.

Audrina was born on October 15 by caesarean sectionand was operated on the next day.

Dr Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at the hospital, said: "Once the cardiac surgeons were finished operating on Audrina, the plastic surgery team played a pivotal role in completing this surgery as we were responsible for covering her heart beneath her skin and muscle."

Dr Carolyn Altman, a pediatric cardiologist at the hospital, added: 'Despite Audrina's misplaced heart, she was born with no other syndromes or genetic conditions that would cause additional stress or complications on her heart.

"Although her future prognosis is uncertain, Audrina is currently thriving and making progress each day."

Huge congratulations to everyone at the Texas Children's Hospital!
Enjoy your beautiful daughter, Ashley.


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