For Kate Garraway it was probably the most difficult, blisteringly charged television interview of her 30-year career.
And on this occasion, she was the one answering the questions.
Sitting in the back garden of the North London house she shares with her husband Derek Draper and children Darcey, 14, and Billy, ten, the Good Morning Britain presenter wiped away tears as she revealed, for the first time, the dramas of the past ten weeks as her husband has fought for his life after succumbing to coronavirus.
She described her gut-wrenching anguish, fear and pain — but also her thankfulness that Derek is still alive and fighting the virus with every sinew of his broken body.
For although Derek, 52, is alive, he remains gravely ill — possibly one of the most damaged survivors of the virus doctors have seen.
Wearing a pretty red dress, her hair freshly and rather impressively cut by her teenage daughter for the occasion, Kate, who turned 53 last month as her husband lay in a coma, fought back tears for much of the interview, and broke down at other parts as she revealed the sheer hell and ‘evil’ she and her children have been going through.
Sitting in the back garden of the North London house she shares with her husband Derek Draper and children Darcey, 14, and Billy, ten, the Kate Garraway wiped away tears as she revealed, for the first time, the dramas of the past ten weeks as her husband has fought for his life after succumbing to coronavirus. Pictured: Kate and husband Derek in December
Looking drawn, and thinner than usual, she struggled to maintain her professional composure as her co-presenters, and great friends, Ben Shephard and Ranvir Singh were also clearly struggling to control their emotions.
‘He is very, very sick and, as time goes on, it’s a virus, it’s a little bit like a computer virus, it’s a little bit like the doctors manage one bit extraordinarily well and there seems to be a flicker of hope and then other things emerge and they’re fighting that.
'It has affected him from the top of his head to the tip of his toes,’ she said.
‘My doctor said to me that he is the worst-affected person he has had to treat, who has lived — thank God he has lived, so far, and I’m so grateful for that.
‘They talk about the evil virus — and it is an evil virus.
‘He’s now Covid-free, he’s testing negative for the virus, so the fight with the virus has been won and he’s still here. But it has wreaked extraordinary damage on his body and we don’t know if he can recover from that.
‘Some of the damage he’s got, the doctors have told me he’s one of only five people they’ve seen it in.’
The nightmare began towards the end of March.
Derek, a former political adviser under the Labour government of the Nineties who became a psychotherapist, had developed a painful shoulder, for which he was taking painkillers.
He had been about to have steroid injections to help with it but these were cancelled (presumably in light of Covid-19).
‘He was feeling really unwell, in misery with that,’ Kate recalls. ‘But it seemed to be getting unfathomably worse.
‘I said “you don’t look right, babe, what is going on?” and I just had this weird feeling. And I said “you haven’t got a cough, have you?” and I took his temperature. He didn’t have either. ‘He said: “I have got a weird sinusitis, though.” ’
Over the next weekend, Kate still didn’t suspect coronavirus and obtained some antibiotics, but on Monday, March 30, after she arrived back from her shift at Smooth Radio, where she presents a mid-morning show, she was alarmed by Derek’s appearance.
‘I came in and I said: “Gosh, you look ill.” He said: “I don’t feel well, I’ve got a splitting headache and a weird numbness in my right hand. I find it quite hard to breathe. I’m really struggling to breathe.”
‘I sort of paced around and did what anybody who works at Good Morning Britain does — I called Dr Hilary (the TV doctor, Dr Hilary Jones). I tried to call 111 and couldn’t get through, so I thought I’m just going to call Dr Hilary.
Kate Garraway spoke about her experience on Good Morning Britain. Kate is a presenter for the ITV show
‘He talked to Derek and did a sort of breathing test to check his [lung] capacity. He said “put me on to Kate” and — I’ll never forget it — he said: “I think you need to call an ambulance.” ’
The ambulance crew did a thumb test, which revealed that Derek’s oxygen levels were dangerously low. He needed to get to hospital right away.
‘They put him in the ambulance and put a mask on him to breathe,’ recalls Kate. ‘Darcey and Billy came out and he just said: “You’re the best children anybody could ever have asked for. Look after Mum, be good for her,” went into the ambulance and that was it.
‘He went straight to intensive care. In that first week it looked like he was rallying. Doctors were very positive. But he was very bad.’
Then, in another of Covid’s wicked foibles — the false promise — Derek began deteriorating fast.
‘He couldn’t really speak to me because of the mask,’ recalled Kate.
‘The doctors put him on speakerphone and he’d shout things to me. He was begging me: “I can’t stand this, I feel like I’m suffocating every single day. I can’t take it. Please let them put me in a coma.”
‘There was a debate about that, to rest his lungs. And I would say, we’re not putting you in a coma because the doctors say no, we’ve got to wait. Because if his lungs can still work, that’s better.’
On the Sunday after he had been admitted, the television presenter took one of those calls nobody wants to receive.
‘The doctor said, we’ve got to put him into the coma. He’s here, he can hear you. He shouted: “I love you, I have to leave you.”
‘I said, it’s only for three or four days and this is good because this is what you wanted, it will allow you to rest.
‘And he said “you’ve saved my life” because I think he thought I’d persuaded the doctors to put him in a coma. Obviously, I hadn’t. He said: “I don’t mean just now, I mean getting married, the children — you’ve saved my life.”
‘I said “I love you, I love you” and the doctors said, “he’s gone, he’s under”. That was it.’
As he fought for his life, Derek was transferred to a different hospital, Kate says, because of ‘different needs’.
Derek Draper and Kate Garraway are pictured following her appearance in the TV show 'I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!' in 2019
‘There’s an enzyme the liver produces that goes up when you’re fighting an infection,’ she said. ‘You and I, when we’re healthy, would be under ten. If you had a bad case of tonsillitis or something, it could go up to 100. If it goes up to 200 then you’re really sick and you need to get to hospital.
‘When Derek was admitted to the second hospital, he was 1,286. He was off the scale with infection and his lungs were solid and nobody thought he would live.
‘He had none of the underlying causes that we’re told about. He just got it very, very, very badly and we don’t know why.’
Two months after that dramatic phone call, Derek Draper remains gravely ill in hospital and Kate has been told her husband might, or might not, recover. Because Covid-19 is a new disease, it’s impossible for doctors to tell Kate which way they think it will go, because they have no experience to draw on.
And that gives Kate, who married Derek in 2005, hope.
‘The doctors talk in double negatives. You have to take comfort from the double negatives,’ she says. ‘They say, we can’t say he can’t recover, we don’t know he can recover and we don’t know how long it’ll take. So from that you take terrible uncertainty and have to find good in it because you have to think there is hope, there is positivity.’
If he gets better, it could be weeks, months or even a year, Kate has been told.
With her husband in a coma, hovering between life and death, she searched around for a coping mechanism to help her.
‘Very early on, I spoke to Piers (Morgan, her fellow presenter on GMB) and he just said: “Right, Garraway, you’re a journalist, this is the story of your life. Your focus now is Derek, you’ve got to fight for Derek, you’ve got to get all the information you can.”
‘That actually really helped because I thought, I’ve got a job. Because we were in freefall.’
Every Thursday evening, she and the children would go out for the ‘clap for carers’ and Kate would always somehow raise a smile.
She kept it up until about a fortnight ago. ‘I probably did crash because you can’t stay like that for ever.
‘The problem is, I have huge hope and massive positivity and will never give up on that because Derek is the core of my life and our lives. But at the same time I have absolute uncertainty.’
One thing that had become increasingly apparent to Kate was that it wasn’t a case of you either recover from Covid-19 or die. There is another state where the person does not die, but their life is changed dramatically and, perhaps, irrevocably.
She revealed that she, too, had contracted the virus but in a very mild form.
‘My prayers were all, let him live, let him live, let him live — God bless the NHS, God help the workers helping him, please don’t let him die.
‘We think of Covid as being something where you either live — mercifully — or it takes you.
Kate Garraway pictured with her children Darcey (right), 14, and Billy, ten, who live with her in north London
‘And I think at the beginning of this, that’s what it was like. Now what we are seeing is people who are living but with completely unforeseen consequences.
‘It’s a war. The medical teams say this to me This is a war that Derek and tens of thousands of others are fighting.’
Kate did not go into specific details about Derek’s medical condition, but it’s believed he is no longer in an induced coma.
Throughout, Kate’s focus has been on her children. ‘I know Derek would say to me, don’t worry about me, look after them, that’s your job.
‘Whenever I felt like going to the toilet and having a moment, I know he’d be saying: “Go on, get out there.” I’m very aware that I’ve been very sad and anxious and focused on Derek and I think I need them to feel safe.’
The children have been growing vegetables in the garden — which could be seen on the TV — but even this has had its bitter-sweet moments
‘When it was really hot, she said: “We need the paddling pool, Mum,” so we were in the paddling pool at 11 at night. Anything just to try and find little moments of joy so that they can see that even as this is going on, we can still smile.
‘And that is Derek’s big thing, actually, you’ve got to laugh, you’ve got to be silly.
Darcey, Kate and William take to the street outside their north London home on May 28 for the weekly Clap for Carers
‘There was a brilliant, ridiculous moment when Derek was obviously stuck in the coma — it wasn’t the three to five days that we’d hoped. And Darcey did the thing teenagers do and was on the internet looking at comas, and said: “Mum, I’ve just been reading about comas. Sometimes when people come out of comas they have a totally different accent. One woman could speak fluent Mandarin.” ’
‘I said “blimey” and we were just hysterical laughing at the idea of Derek waking up really posh, or suddenly speaking Mandarin. And I saw the look of relief on her face that I was laughing, and that she could laugh.’
And so it is, with her children in mind, and their need for ‘a life’, that Billy, who is in Year 6, will return to school on Monday. The three of them went for a bike ride the other day. Small steps towards some sort of routine, at least.
Friends have been full of praise for the way Kate has coped.
Her friend of 20 years, and former ITV producer, Vickie White, told the Mail: ‘Kate has been incredibly brave throughout this heart-wrenching time.
‘We speak most days on the phone and, yes, we cry, but she never fails to look to the positives and appreciate the hard work of the NHS staff and worry about those worse off than her.
Kate Garraway was pictured looking emotional during the Clap for Carers last month, with her husband in hospital
‘But that’s just Kate! She’s always been incredibly selfless and genuinely concerned about everyone else.
‘I’ve known her many years and have always admired those qualities and even throughout this testing, traumatic time, she hasn’t changed one bit.
‘She has to be strong for her children and Derek will be so proud of how she has done just that. Kate is a great broadcaster and a loyal wife, but nothing can beat what a fantastic mum she has always been to Darcey and Billy and they’ll get through this as a team.
‘Derek is one of the funniest, most charismatic men you could meet and we miss him so much. We pray for the day we can have him back in our lives, making us laugh again.’
Another friend, Clare Nasir, the Channel 5 weather broadcaster who met Kate on her first day at GMTV as it was then, said: ‘Despite all of this she remains a shining light to her children and the sheer determination of the woman means Derek has every chance possible.
‘She has become, in her own way, Derek’s most incredible advocate to get well and the love and support she receives from everyone is what will get her through the greatest challenge of her life. My heart is with her every day.’
Kate describes the fact that her husband is still alive as ‘a miracle’.
‘I’m so grateful for the fact that he’s still here and I’ve got the option of praying and hoping when others have had that stripped away,’ says Kate.
‘It’s an absolute miracle that he’s here and I know I’ve had one miracle, but if I could just have one more, if he could just make that next step . . .’