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'I'm never going to give up on you': Kate Garraway's farewell to Derek Draper as he neared the end of his life

16 February 2024, 13:03

Kate Garraway speaks to Shelagh Fogarty about her husband Derek Draper's death

By Kit Heren

Kate Garraway told her husband Derek Draper that she would "never give up" on him as he neared the end of his life after a four-year battle with the effects of Covid-19.

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Mr Draper died aged 56 in January after suffering a heart attack in December, with Kate holding his hand at his bedside. He contracted Covid early in the pandemic and spent over a year in hospital, but never fully recovered.

The Smooth Radio presenter also told LBC's Shelagh Fogarty in a wide-ranging interview of her efforts to prepare her teenage children Darcey and Billy for the death of their father, that being able to look after Mr Draper was a gift, and that improving caring would now be her life's work.

Kate said that her husband's heart attack had been a surprise, despite his health struggles, because he had previously been in better health.

"Just before the cardiac arrest, which led to him ultimately passing away, he was the best he's been," she said. "He was communicating better. He'd had a series of scans, which showed all sorts of things were improving."

Read more: Kate Garraway's husband Derek Draper dies aged 56 after Covid health battle

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Kate Garraway
Kate Garraway. Picture: LBC

Kate added that his heart attack was followed by "very grim prognoses". She said: "He became, effectively initially unconscious... We knew that he could hear, but we weren't sure whether he was going to be able to recover.

"And would he be able to open his eyes? Was that going to happen? Was he going to be able to get movement?"

She said that she and her children had received similarly bad news from doctors about Mr Draper in the past, and he had managed to recover.

"So I think we'd gotten to the point of kind of saddling up for another. 'Okay, okay, what needs to be done? How do we tackle this?'

"And then the weeks went on, and [the doctors] said, 'Look, we don't think he's going to live much longer, I'm afraid.'"

Kate Garraway and her husband Derek Draper
Kate Garraway and her husband Derek Draper. Picture: Shutterstock

After looking at the scans, Kate said she realised that her husband's health was in a very bad state.

She said that she "had to think about how to prepare the children... I didn't want them to feel that if this were going to be their last moments with their dad, that they were still in the zone of 'Come on dad, we believe in you'.

"There might be things that they wanted to say that wouldn't be said, if you're trying to stay in a positive frame of mind to keep people going. And so I just said to them: 'Look, he's very, very unstable. The doctors say that he might not wake up'."

She asked her children if they had any questions, and her daughter Darcey asked her how she was. "She's so lovely, because it showed that she'd sort of, on some level, taken it in."

Kate said that the family then had "some very precious, albeit incredibly difficult" time together.

Kate Garraway with Shelagh Fogarty
Kate Garraway with Shelagh Fogarty. Picture: LBC

"We thought it would be days, but it was weeks of being with him by the bedside, thinking, and we had lots of conversations".

She added: "We had Christmas. So they read our Christmas cards to him that they'd written to him, that others had written to him and and so it was actually became quite a special sort of calm time, actually, in a strange way."

The whole family had individual farewell conversations with Mr Draper. Kate told Shelagh: "I said to him, you know, I'm never going to give up. So we're here. It's your decision.

"But also... I just wanted him to know that I wasn't giving up because I thought if you are trapped - as they believed he was inside a body that was very damaged, and failing - I didn't want him to think that we were departing him, you know, that we were giving up."

Kate said her experience of caring for Mr Draper had shown her "how incredibly professional carers are".

Kate Garraway, with her husband Derek Draper and her parents Gordon and Marilyn Garraway pose for a photo after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to broadcasting, journalism and charity last June
Kate Garraway, with her husband Derek Draper and her parents Gordon and Marilyn Garraway pose for a photo after being made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her services to broadcasting, journalism and charity last June. Picture: Alamy

She said: "I certainly know how much support is required for everybody in the position of caring. I don't have any quick fix answers, but I think it's probably going to be my life's work to work on it.

"And I thought about that because... I'd sort of give my eye teeth to still be a carer now."

Kate added: "Someone said 'Well just put all that chapter behind you, and try to begin a new life', and I was like, 'No, because if there's anything good to be taken from it, it's to champion that cause'.

"Because we are all going to need care, we're all going to need someone to love us in our final hours, or in our hours where we just need it for a period."

Kate said that she thought of caring as "an act of love".

She told Shelagh: "We talk about it, don't we, with non-medical caring terms [like] 'He drives me mad sometimes, but he always remembers my cup of tea in the morning', or 'she always does this for me', or 'he always does that for me'.

"And to me caring is just an extension of that. It's just that it's hidden. And it happens in the space of people's homes, in their bedrooms, in their quiet moments, in their vulnerable moments."

She added that caring for her husband had been "a massive, massive gift as well. I mean, we wouldn't have had the wonderful times we've had, and the special moments we've had".

Kate said that the way Mr Draper had tackled his ill health had been inspiring for their children.

She said: "I think what's been very interesting is the way he's behaved. And the way he's tackled his challenges has also been really inspiring for them. And they've been incredible for him and to him.

"But also, I think actually watching their dad vulnerable, whereas before he was 6ft 2, he was big, he was loud, having him... reduced physically and not loud, and vulnerable, has been rather lovely too."

Mr Draper, from Chorley, Lancashire, became ill with coronavirus early in the pandemic, and his condition deteriorated so badly he was put in an induced coma.

He spent 13 months in hospital recovering - Britain's longest case of Covid - before finally being discharged in 2021. Kate thanked all of the medical staff who had helped him during his health battle.

Kate will be returning to LBC’s sister station Smooth Radio on Monday from 10am to present her weekday show.

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