Parents' Nightmare -- Awaiting Heart Transplants for Newborn Twins

Nicole and Michael Draper always loved the idea of a big family. They started seven years ago with the arrival of their daughter Caitlin. Twins Emma and Brendan arrived in 2001.

In early 2005, with another pregnancy under way, the Phoenix couple received more good news at the doctor's office. They were expecting another set of twins.

A month later, doctors spotted trouble in a routine ultrasound: a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning a heart too weak to do its job. The condition is rarely diagnosed in utero, and it is rarer still for each twin to have it.

"The fact that both of them had it was just amazing to them [the doctors] as well as to us. The word that the cardiologist used was 'unfathomable.' He said, 'It is unfathomable that both of these babies have this condition,'" Nicole Draper said.

Her pregnancy became an escalating medical suspense, peaking on the day she delivered. As her husband, Michael, described it, "Everybody was tense. Everybody. There were eight or nine people in there."

In front of a crowd of anxious doctors, Nick and Nathan Draper came into the world on the morning of July 11, 2005. They were immediately rushed to intensive care and within hours the boys were on 10 different medications.

Hospital Shuffle

Soon after the twins were born, complications mounted.

They were moved by ambulance to Phoenix Children's Hospital where heart specialists advised having the boys flown to the University of California in Los Angeles, the closest place with the expertise to keep them alive.

"It was terrifying to receive the news that they had done so poorly in that first 24 hours," Nicole said.

When they arrived in Los Angeles, they were greeted with even worse news from doctors.

The Drapers were told that both babies needed heart transplants within three months to six months -- and that the wait for scarcely available infant hearts could often be longer.

"It was devastating to me," Nicole said. "We just kept hearing so much negative information."

A positive moment came when a nurse told Nicole she could actually touch her babies for the first time. "We were very grateful for every moment that we had," Nicole said.

Nate was in the most critical condition. Beyond his heart problem, he'd developed a small bleeding in the brain.

"I don't know how many people told us that he wasn't going to make it," Michael said.

Project Survival

With the Drapers' babies awaiting heart transplants, the Mattell Children's Hospital at UCLA became the center of the couple's lives.

They moved into a Ronald McDonald House with their other children and for months Michael traveled back and forth to his job as an enrollment counselor at the University of Phoenix. The twins went through constant medical ups and downs.

After almost four months, Nate became strong enough to leave the hospital. About seven weeks later, his condition worsened and he was readmitted.

Nicole remained optimistic, even though her hopes for a transplant would mean another baby would have to die.

"We don't want bad things to happen. We would never wish that," Nicole said. "We just hope that if something bad were to happen, that someone would consider organ donation and consider having something good come out of something very difficult."

'Miracle Baby'

No one could have known that a heart for Nick was then beating in the chest of an infant in Florida.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...