WHEN GMB presenter’s son Kate Garraway Billy returns to elementary school tomorrow for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, it will be a particularly emotional moment.
For ten-year-old Billy, his father, Derek Draper, usually walks to school. He is still in a coma ten weeks after contracting the virus.
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“Derek is such an incredible father. He is brilliant with children, and that is one of the reasons why it is so difficult. It doesn’t feel right without him, “said Kate, 53, whose television breakfast debut meant that her husband, 52, was in charge of the morning routine.
“One of the things that makes him so sad is that I know he would have loved it, our time locked out. He’s never been happier than being in this house, just the four of us, “she adds, smiling sadly.
“He really is a man at home. He said, “It’s just you, me and the kids” and he would be so happy to just play, be here and do some work on his computer.
“Just as he loved going out with his friends, he loved going home. “
Psychologist Derek was hospitalized in late March after worryingly short of breath and, due to strict hospital hygiene, his family has not seen him in person since.
He tested positive for Covid-19, but even if it is now virus-free, it has caused considerable damage to its main organs and remains seriously ill.
Billy has now built a play area next to his father’s bed and sleeps there at night.
Before Derek was hospitalized, the couple were building a Lego Death Star, and his son left it so they could finish it when he returned.
In the garden, Kate – also the mother of her daughter Darcey, 14 – points out a cushioned gray deckchair next to the hedge.
“No one is allowed to sit in there. It’s Derek. He sits there when the weather is nice and says, “It’s so beautiful here – who needs chic Tuscany? ”
Kate was surprisingly strong in dealing with the many setbacks to her husband’s health – including telling her that her heart needed to be restarted. But she says that sometimes it’s the simple things that can overwhelm her, out of nowhere.
“Derek always writes” R “on the calendar to find out when it’s recycling day,” she adds. “His writing is everywhere – then suddenly we turned the page on June and it just stopped because he hadn’t planned that far.
“There are times when I can’t bear to look around this house. It’s a lot of things that he chose and that we chose together, and when Darcey and Billy are together. . . there are times as parents when you take pleasure in seeing them do something, or change in some way, and it ties you together.
“Darcey is so much like Derek. She always says, “I’m all Draper. There is no Garraway in me, “but sometimes I look at them both and think,” He would be so proud “or” Derek would have loved it “, and then I remember why he couldn’t profit too. It’s torture. He is trapped right now, in a line between life and the uncertainty of recovery, and we are also trapped with this uncertainty. ”
Derek had suffered from a painful shoulder during the first week of locking, and also had sinusitis. But on Monday March 30, he was having trouble breathing.
Kate called her GMB colleague, Dr. Hilary Jones, who advised her to call an ambulance.
She said, “We didn’t even know it was Covid at the time. He had none of the symptoms – no cough, no temperature.
“Even when he got to the hospital and he tested positive for the virus, the doctors were hoping for a lot of recovery. There is a text message from him on my phone saying, “The doctors have gone around, they say I’m definitely not going to die. I do it well. ”
“But it intensified from there. He said he was constantly feeling suffocated all the time. He had to take it second by second. . . Another breath, another breath. They then put him in a coma.
“I feel like I fell into a rabbit hole – and I never really hit rock bottom, thank God, because I think rock bottom would probably find out that he was dead. ”
Kate and Derek, a former industrial doctor who became a psychologist, were introduced by their mutual friend Gloria de Piero, a former GMTV presenter who became a Labor MP before resigning last year.
“After all the crazy and exciting Labor days, he had a depression and went to America to retrain as a psychologist. So I didn’t know him until after all of that, “says Kate.
“The first time we met, I felt he still had a little sadness in his eyes. But Derek is such a colorful character. You only have to enter his name on Google to find out that he had an extraordinary life.
“But it’s not Derek’s heart. We’re very different outside and I think a lot of people find us a pretty curious couple, but it all makes sense when we’re alone together – that time when you go to bed at night and it’s just the two of you, unchecking the day. He always says that we are surprisingly similar on all important things, like our values and our approaches. ”
Shortly before being plunged into an induced coma to try to help her body fight the virus, Derek spoke to Kate on the phone and said, “You saved my life. I don’t just mean now, I mean everything. Be married to you and the children. “
“Well, he saved mine too,” she said with a sad smile. ” He is incredible. I learned so much from him, especially how he is with children.
“I find myself saying things to them and then thinking, ‘This is what Derek would say.’ There is a new reality to deal with now. We have to find a way to continue our life while we wait for Derek.
“HE DID NOT REGULATE CONSCIOUSNESS”
“We have to try to live with the uncertainty that we will not necessarily know that he is fine. ”
Three weeks ago, the hospital withdrew the drugs that had placed Derek in an induced coma, but, despite the occasional opening of the eyes, he has not yet regained consciousness.
In the meantime, the FaceTime family does it every day.
Kate says, “There is no reason to believe that her hearing is not working. And he opened his eyes, so the hope is that he goes through the stages of consciousness and emerges.
“When the kids first asked if they could talk to dad, I said” yes, “but I warned them that he wouldn’t be able to answer.
“I was nervous about it because he looks very sick.
“But they were incredible. Billy said, “Hi dad, I jumped out of the garden swings. . . safely, “and just chatted.
“Darcey’s wanted a new dresser for the ages. At first, she said she would wait until he got home, but then decided to build the flatpack herself, talking to her throughout FaceTime. Hopefully this normalcy affects him. “
It’s a stark contrast to last winter when Kate was on the prime-time TV show, I’m a Celebrity and Derek, and the kids flew to Australia to support her. – often appearing on television themselves.
When she finally came out of the show, an emotional Derek offered her a second time and they planned to renew their vows in August.
Kate said, “We were talking about it right before he got sick and I said we have to put it back because we wanted to have a big party.
“He said,” Don’t worry, it will continue. “We will do it after.” So I hope we have the opportunity. . . ”
Derek used to tease his wife about his “TV nonsense” but was incredibly proud of his career.
When the hospital asked her to drop off some familiar items – like the shampoo and body wash he likes – she put them in a small suitcase that she had last used for a work trip just before locking.
“I opened it and there was a card he had written for me, which I had read at the time. It shows how much he loves me, how proud he is of me and how he felt so good with us. It was so romantic and it’s so weird to read it now that it’s in this state.
“You know that feeling, when you are driving and someone is withdrawing in front of you and your heart, then you are driving very carefully for the next five minutes, then you calm down? Well, it’s like you are constantly at this stage of the heart attack, without the calming.
“The same goes for Derek’s poor parents and sisters. They are in Chorley and want to be here but cannot be. “
What would Derek say to him right now, if he could?
“I know he would say, ‘Make sure the kids are safe and keep going.’ I hope he would be happy with the way I handled it. I also think he looks like the house is very messy! Kate said laughing before getting serious again.
“I think he would be proud and that he knows I am trying. I hope I have done what we would have done together. There have been so many times when I almost went to call him, and then I thought, “What am I doing? “I just know that I love him and that I really miss him.
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“I have been contacted by thousands of people in Derek’s life – patients with whom he has helped in his psychotherapy and people with whom he has worked in politics. I’m not sure he knows they all feel like that. I hope so. Many people have recorded messages and I listen to them in the hope that he can hear. ”
She says their neighbors have been amazing with offers of help, along with colleagues from ITV and Smooth Radio.
“Derek is still here and I am grateful to him for there are many others who have lost people. We take a lot of hope to see people leave the hospital after a long period of time, but when this thing takes hold, you don’t know where it’s going to go. All we can do is hope. “