By Christi Meyers
Houston, TX (KTRK/CNN) - A baby born with one third of her heart beating outside her chest is on the mend.
Doctors in Houston managed to rebuild the infant's chest and save her life, and now this will be a special Thanksgiving for the tiny baby's grateful mother.
Ashley Cardenas sees her newborn daughter for the first time after extraordinary surgery to put her baby's heart back inside her chest.
Little Audrina was born with one third of her heart lying on her stomach, beating outside her body. It was a stunning thing to see, even for the heart surgeons that repaired it.
"It's like the heart was kinda pinched in the middle," said Cardenas.
The condition was picked up on an ultrasound, and is usually fatal. But Cardenas made the difficult decision to continue the pregnancy and pray for her baby's healing.
"I had to come with believing in him believing in faith that there is a reason she is here," she said.
In a six hour surgery, Texas Children's heart surgeons and plastic surgeons reconstructed the baby's chest to make space for the heart inside, and gently stretched her skin to cover the hole.
"The baby probably will have to have other operations in the future. The sternum is about half formed but these are things we can deal with," said Dr. Charles Fraser, Surgeon-in Chief.
Now 5-weeks-old, Audrina is doing well. She still has a hole in her heart, but doctors say it may heal on its own.
"They have no idea how thankful I am. If it wasn't for them as well as the grace of God she wouldn't be here," said Cardenas.