Nicholas “Pickle” Gregory Draper, 16, was born on July 11, 2005, in Phoenix, Arizona. He passed away on August 28, 2021. Nick was our miracle boy from the very beginning. He was born with a heart condition that necessitated a heart transplant, and after seven long months, he received the amazing gift of a heart. There were initial complications, but after being on a heart/lung bypass machine for five days, miraculously, Nick’s new heart took on new life and after 11 months, he was finally home!
When he was three and a half years old, a serious seizure episode made Nick dependent on a ventilator for six weeks. We were told he would need a tracheotomy and be discharged on a ventilator to survive. In his miracle fashion, Nick rallied and went home on only a small amount of oxygen for a short time. He lived another five and a half years without a trach or vent!
Another severe seizure episode when Nick was nine resulted in his needing a tracheotomy and full-time ventilator support. Despite many other challenges and interventions, we were blessed with miracles again and again, as he courageously chose to stay with us for another seven years. In every instance and each day, he fought with all the might he could muster. He may have been small in stature, but he was mighty in spirit. He is genuinely our hero!
Nick loved to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Puppy Dog Pals, and any shows with bright colors, funny sounds, and music. His rattles were his favorite toys, and he would eagerly drink anything we put in his cup. Most of all, Nick loved people; he lit up whenever anyone talked to him, and his infectious smile could in turn light up a room. Pickle adored his entire family, but he was happiest when he was in his mom’s arms, hearing her voice, and giggling as she tickled him. Although he was incredibly sweet, he also had tremendous strength and an indomitable spirit — he never complained, even in the face of frequent pain or discomfort.
We can’t let this opportunity pass without thanking the innumerable kindhearted people who became part of our family as they cared for Nick in our home. He was also blessed with amazing and compassionate hospital nurses, doctors, therapists, teachers, friends, church members, extended family, and Ryan House staff. We are especially grateful to the selfless family who gave Nick the heart of their son, setting aside their grief to bring us years of joy.
Nick is survived by his loving family: parents, Michael and Nicole Draper; siblings, Caitlin, Brendan, Emma, and Nathaniel; as well as his paternal grandma, Eleanor Draper, maternal grandparents Gregory and Joy Loosli; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins who adored him. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandpa, James Draper.
Funeral services will be held on Saturday, September 4, 2021, at 11:00 am, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints located at 2955 E. Frye Road, Phoenix, AZ 85048, with a visitation on Friday, September 3, 2021, from 6:00-8:00 pm, at Gilbert Memorial Park Funeral Home located at 2100 East Queen Creek Road, Gilbert, Arizona 85297. Nick will be laid to rest in the Draper Family Cemetery in Pinetown, North Carolina.
We appreciate Gilbert Memorial Park Funeral Home for handling the viewing and funeral arrangements. In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the Ronald McDonald House or the Ryan House. Ryan House is a care facility that provides respite, palliative and end-of-life care to children with life-threatening conditions and the families who care for them. Nick, his twin brother Nate, and the rest of the family have benefited greatly from both facilities’ services over the years and truly appreciate all they do.