Heart in the Right Place: Alum Leads Surgery on “Miracle Baby”

Last week, Ashley Cardenas held her baby for the first time. It’s a life-changing moment for any parent—but for Ashley and her 5-week-old daughter, Audrina, it meant they had beaten long odds.

Audrina was born with her heart outside her body, an extremely rare defect called ectopia cordis. Only eight in 1 million babies are born with the condition; of those, 90 percent die within three days of birth.

Thanks to an innovative surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, Audrina’s heart is now safely inside her chest, and she’s making a steady recovery in the hospital’s intensive care unit. She’s also made history as the longest surviving baby in Texas known to have the condition.

And none other than a Longhorn is behind her survival. Charles Fraser, BA ’80, Life Member, the hospital’s surgeon-in-chief, led the medical team that operated on Audrina.

Fraser (whose high-powered career was the subject of a 2008 Alcalde story) said in a press release last week that he was pleased with Audrina’s recovery. “I have only seen this condition a few times in my career and these are always very tricky cases,” Fraser said. “Many of these babies do not survive. Audrina is a true fighter and we are so excited that this was a good outcome.”

While Audrina will likely need future surgeries, her long-term prognosis is strong.

“I feel blessed just to know she’s here and getting better every day,” Ashley told the Houston Chronicle. “She’s my little miracle baby.”

From left: Ashley Cardenas, Audrina Cardenas, and Charles Fraser. Photo by Paul Kuntz, Texas Children’s Hospital.


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