Smiles and giggles
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PHOTOS: Joyful reunion after twin’s heart transplant

Nicole Draper playfully talks to her 4-year-old twins Nick and Nate as they visit Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where the boys were treated after being born with heart defects. Nick received a heart transplant in February 2006. Nate recovered as his heart became stronger, making a transplant unnecessary. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Pediatric cardiologist Dr. Juan Alejos, right, hugs Mike Draper, father of the twins, during the family’s visit Friday. Alejos was the cardiologist in charge of the twins’ care. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Caron Burch, heart and lung transplant nurse manager, hugs Nicole Draper. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Hospital volunteer Bill Sears greets Nicole Draper in the cafeteria as husband Mike and daughter Emma look on. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
In February 2006, Cailtin Draper, then 6, cuddles her 7-month-old brother Nick before he underwent heart transplant surgery at UCLA Medical Center. Nick and his twin brother Nate were diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy shortly after they were born. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Nicole and Mike Draper join hands as they say a prayer with children Caitlin, 6, foreground, Brendan, 5, second from left, and his twin sister, Emma, the night before Nick’s surgery. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Brendan Draper, 5, reaches out for his brother Nick the night before the 7-month-old’s heart transplant. Nick took turns snuggling in the arms of his big brother and sisters. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Nick Draper shows his displeasure at being awakened about 3 a.m. Thursday to go to the operating room. Nick’s new heart came a from a donor child whose name and location, by law, remain confidential. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Nicole Draper carries Nick as she and husband Mike head to the operating room at UCLA Medical Center, where Nick was to receive a new heart. A nurse, left, congratulates them on learning that a donor had been found. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
The donated heart arrives by helicopter. As soon as it arrived in the operating room, Nick’s surgeon removed his malformed heart. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Members of a heart procurement team, including Dr. Jonah Odem, right, wheel an ice chest containing Nick’s donated heart to the operating room. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Dr. Mark Plunkett, left, works to place the donated heart in Nick’s open chest. Plunkett’s hands moved steadily and gracefully over the incision, like a conductor guiding an orchestra through a slow waltz. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Dr. Mark Plunkett takes out Nick’s heart, about the size of a small orange. The boy had dilated cardiomyopathy, meaning the left and right sides were in a cross-shaped jumble. He and his twin brother, Nate, would die, their doctors said, if they did not get new hearts. But Nate’s heart healed on its own. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Dr. Mark Plunkett performed Nick’s heart transplant. He estimated he’s done 300 of the procedures. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
Nick sleeps during a visit Monday by his parents, Mike and Nicole Draper. Since Saturday, his heartbeat has steadily grown in strength, and his surgeon, Dr. Mark Plunkett, was optimistic about his recovery. “The next 24 to 48 hours are very important. The further out we get, the better,” he said. (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
A brief visit with Nick on Tuesday lifted the Drapers’ spirits. “Baby Nick,” his father told him Saturday, “you’re going to get better.” (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)
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