Baby with rare heart condition beats the odds

Parents considered abortion, but — “Who wants to take a life away?”

I was so happy to see this article (and beautiful picture) featured on the front page of the Sunday edition of the Houston Chronicleespecially this weekend. Tiny Audrina Cardenas was born three months ago with ectopia cordis, a condition that affects six to eight out of every one million babies, and is almost always fatal. When Audrina was born at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, more than one-third of her heart was outside of her chest. After a risky surgery to place her heart inside her chest cavity and three months in the hospital, Audrina is expected be cleared to return home as soon as this Tuesday. She is the longest-living survivor of ectopia cordis on record in the state of Texas.

Audrina’s parents, Ashley Cardenas, 25, and Toribio Rodriguez, 28, found out about their daughter’s condition when an ultrasound at 16 weeks revealed the baby’s heart sitting on top her chest. Devastated by the diagnosis, the parents were forced to choose between aborting their baby and “hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.” The full story is behind the Chronicle’s online firewall, unfortunately, but here’s a snippet:

As the news sinks in, Cardenas and Rodriguez do consider termination. “I don’t want to bring a child into the world who won’t have any quality of life,” Cardenas says. “We don’t want her to suffer.”…

At the same time, Cardenas asks herself, “Who wants to take a life away? Who wants to stop a beating heart?”

By now, she is 17 weeks along. As she understands Texas law, she doesn’t have much time if she decides she does want to terminate. Every day is a torment. She tells close friends and relatives, “You won’t know what it feels like to make a decision like this until you are in my shoes.” …

The couple finally agree that if they can’t decide to abort, that is a decision of sorts.

“Let’s let it play out,” they tell each other.

Today, after months of therapy, feeding and breathing tubes, and countless tests, Baby Audrina will soon be able to leave the hospital and join her parents and two older sisters at home.

[Cardenas] would like to tell her baby, “It doesn’t matter if you can’t play sports when you’re older. I think you’re a dancer.”

And she would like to tell other pregnant women who heard the dreaded diagnosis, ectopia cordis, “Don’t give up. Don’t assume the worst. There is hope.”


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About Catherine Harmon 578 Articles
Catherine Harmon works in the marketing department for Ignatius Press.