FOX 5 NEWS - When Dean Wilkins describes his 3-week-old daughter Vanellope Hope Wilkins as a "miracle," he is not overstating it. Vanellope was born without a breastbone and her heart outside her body. She is believed to be the first patient to survive three operations to put her heart back in her chest.
Doctors at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, England, performed the surgeries.
Vanellope's condition is called ectopia cordis. It is a rare congenital defect—only eight out of every 1 million babies are born with it. Out of those eight, 90 percent are either stillborn or die within the first three days of life.
Several children who survived this delicate surgery live in the United States. One of them is Audrina Cardenas. She was born at Texas Children's Hospital in November 2012. She wears a protective chest plate.
Doctors say babies like Audrina and Vanellope have challenges ahead but at least now, thanks to advances in modern medicine, they both have a chance at a future.
Vanellope is being treated in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit. Doctors will be watching her closely. Most babies who survive surgery are at an increased risk of developing an infection.