(GRAPHIC PHOTOS) Ryan Marquiss: First To Survive Being Born With Heart Outside Of Body

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Ryan Marquiss is truly a miracle baby. He was born with his heart on the outside of his body and against all odds, he has survived.  Check out the amazing story and photos of Ryan Marquiss here…

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Ryan Marquiss was born with his heart outside of his body. The extremely rare condition, called ectopia cordis, affects just eight in every million births and 90% of these are stillborn or die within three days. On top of that, Ryan was also suffering from hypoplastic right heart syndrome, where only the left side of the heart has developed properly. This combination of defects is so rare that Ryan Marquiss, who is about to be 3-years-old, is the only one in the world to have been born this way.

When Ryan Marquiss’ mother Leighann was 12 weeks pregnant doctors advised a termination of pregnancy because of the defect, but both parents refused.  Leighann Marquiss, 34, said:

‘We wanted to let nature take its course, so we refused to have the termination. We knew it would be a miracle if he survived the birth but we were unwilling to take matters into our own hands. The doctors told us that no baby with Ryan’s combination of defects had ever survived, so the fact that he is here with us today, is just amazing. He really has astounded everyone.’

‘All the odds were stacked against him. We knew that it was a miracle that he had been born alive with his heart outside his body, but then to have another life-threatening condition of only having half a heart meant that everything was against him surviving.’

Doctors at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington delivered Ryan at the end of February 2009 by caesarian section, along side a team of 30 medical professionals.

Dr. Mary Donofrio, Director of the fetal heart program at the Children’s National Medical Center said:

‘If he survived the birth his exposed heart likely would become infected and kill him. Even if infection didn’t happen his heart had one working ventricle and he would require open heart surgery to rewire the blood flow through it. I told the family right from the start that if he survived, it was a miracle.’   

Ryan underwent an operation at just two weeks old to have a central shunt placed in his heart to ensure proper blood flow.  Then, over the next two years Ryan had more than a dozen operations.  In the future Ryan may require a heart transplant, but so far he is doing fine.



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  1. I am curious about their logic. They wanted to let nature take its course, yet they agreed to multiple surgeries. Surgery is not a natural course. Not that I am unhappy about Ryan beating the odds, I just wonder sometimes, about the way people think.

  2. im so happy he survived!!! i dont want to sound funny or wierd,but i am curious,he is a child,and what could happen if he falls on his chest? will it hurt the heart that is just under the skin?

    • Good question Julie. I am sure his parents are extra careful with him. He had the surgeries from a newborn and is about to turn three years old so I figure the hear is protected by his rib cage like ours are. Who knows…it is a miracle regardless!!

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