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Doctors Say Twins Healthy Enough to Head Home

Nick and Nate Draper, infant twins who have struggled to defeat a rare and severe form of heart disease over the last year, were going to their Phoenix home today after doctors at UCLA Medical Center concluded they were healthy enough to leave Los Angeles.

The Draper twins, born in Phoenix in July, suffered from dilated cardiomyopathy, a condition that severely weakened their hearts and left them fighting for life.

The babies were quickly placed on the nationwide heart transplant list and transferred to UCLA Medical Center's Mattel Children's Hospital, which had more experience dealing with their condition than hospitals in Arizona.

Doctors at UCLA speculated that Nick and Nate would need transplants by the time they walked because by then their bodies would need hearts that beat strongly and provided better circulation.

Nick received a transplant in February, but the surgery didn't go well. He nearly died and was put on a heart bypass machine that kept him alive for several days until his new heart began to do its job. Nick's health improved over several weeks and he was given clearance to go home.

But Nate's condition had deteriorated so badly that by March doctors worried that he only had days to live without a new heart. Suddenly, and for reasons doctors are still unsure, Nate's health improved. He got so much better, in fact, that within weeks he was taken off the heart transplant list and allowed to leave the hospital to live with his family across the street from the hospital.

Doctors at UCLA closely monitored the twins. They cautioned that Nate's sudden reversal might be temporary. He might end up needing a transplant. What's more, Nick's transplanted heart could be rejected by his body at any time, leaving him in need of a new heart again.

Still, by early this week, the UCLA doctors decided that the boys were healthy enough to return with their parents, Mike and Nicole Draper, to their Phoenix home and the Drapers' three other children.

The twins will need constant monitoring and care while in Phoenix. Mike and Nicole Draper said they expect the boys will have to visit doctors about five times a week. The boys will also have to take more than 15 doses of medications each day.

Despite the hardship, Mike Draper said that the family counts itself lucky as he packed his bags and prepared to leave the hotel his family has stayed in since January.

"It's not just a miracle that we have seen, with these two boys surviving like this, but it is several miracles," he said. "So many miracles that it is just crazy. We just have so much to be thankful for."

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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