Nick Draper, one of two identical twins who needed a heart transplant, has shown signs of improvement following a five-hour Feb. 16 surgery to implant a donor heart at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. The 7-month-old infant was removed from a heart-support device on Feb. 21.
"We supported his new heart with a miniature heart-and-lung machine called an ECMO, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation," said Dr. Mark Plunkett, surgical director of the UCLA Pediatric Heart Transplant Program. "This gave his new heart an opportunity to rest for several days and recover enough strength to work on its own."
Nick remains in critical condition in the intensive care unit, and doctors are cautiously optimistic about the baby's recovery. His twin brother, Nate, continues to wait for a donor heart to become available.
"We are thrilled by Nick's positive response to his new heart and very grateful for the expert medical care that our babies have received at UCLA," said Nicole and Michael Draper, the twins' parents. "We remain hopeful that Nick will continue to improve and pray that our other son, Nate, will also receive a donated heart soon."
"Nick's brother, Nate, remains on the waiting list for a donor organ at UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital and is listed in critical but stable condition. He continues to require significant help for his heart. His appetite is decreasing. We are hopeful that we will locate a donor for Nate soon," said Dr. Juan Alejos, medical director of the UCLA Pediatric Heart Transplant Program.
Born July 11 in Phoenix, Ariz., Nick and Nate suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition in which the heart muscle is too weak to pump efficiently. Doctors say the condition is very rare in newborns and extremely unusual in twin infants.
When their heart function rapidly declined after birth, the twins were transferred to UCLA's Mattel Children's Hospital for heart transplantation evaluation. Nick received a new heart first, because his name was added to the waiting list sooner. Medical complications prevented Nate from being listed until two weeks later.
By sharing their story, the Drapers hope to heighten public awareness of the critical need for organ donors. The family has three other children - a 6-year-old girl and 5 year old twins who are a boy and a girl.
Due to the small pool of infant donors, finding a donor heart for an infant can be especially challenging. More than 89,000 Americans await an organ donation, with 3,100 Americans on the waiting list for a new heart.
For more information on the Drapers and how to contribute to a fund established to raise money for the twins' care, visit http://www.nickandnate.org/. Well-wishers also may contact any Wells Fargo Bank to donate to the "Nick and Nate Draper Benefit Fund," account number 5763252060. Donations also can be mailed to the "Nick and Nate Draper Benefit Fund," P.O. Box 93433, Phoenix, AZ 85070-3433.
Californians interested in becoming organ donors may register online at http://www.donatelifecalifornia.org/ or at the Spanish-language site, http://www.donevidacalifornia.org/.
One of the largest heart-transplant programs in the world, UCLA's adult and pediatric heart-transplant program has performed nearly 1,500 heart transplants since its inception in 1984.