Nate Draper, the 10-month-old identical twin who has been awaiting a heart transplant at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA, was discharged from the hospital today. Doctors said Nate's condition has improved so much that he has been taken off all intravenous heart medications and is no longer actively awaiting a heart transplant.
"There is a chance that Nate may not need a heart transplant in the near future, or for years to come," said Dr. Juan Alejos, medical director of UCLA's Pediatric Heart Transplant Program. "Though his heart has shown signs of improvement, Nate will need continued follow up to assess the effects of his growth and normal development on his heart function."
"This is as close to a miraculous recovery as I can think of," said Dr. Mark Plunkett, surgical director of UCLA's Pediatric Heart Transplant Program. "We plan to study Nate's case in the hopes that we can gather information that may help other children with cardiomyopathy and heart failure."
His identical twin brother, Nick, who received a life-saving heart transplant Feb. 16, was discharged from Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA April 1.
"It's an absolutely amazing development and we are so grateful," said Nicole and Michael Draper, the twins' parents. "We really appreciate the doctors and nurses who have cared for Nate here at UCLA. We also feel that there is definitely something about Nate and the thousands of well-wishers across the nation that have contributed to his miraculous recovery."
Although Nate's heart condition has improved dramatically, tests were performed to determine his ability to respond to visual stimulation and the results indicate that he may be blind. Doctors indicate that a bleed in his brain at birth possibly may have affected the brain's ability to see.
Following his discharge, Nate will receive continued evaluations to determine both the condition of his heart and his ability to see.
Nate will join his parents; Nick; his 6-year-old sister; and his two other siblings, 5 year old fraternal twins, a boy and a girl, who have been staying near the hospital at the Tiverton House hotel.
Born July 11, 2005, in Phoenix, Nate and Nick suffered 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. 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.