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Kate Garraway: Derek’s Story review – a rallying cry for the UK’s 10 million unsung hero carers

The final part of a trilogy of documentaries about the TV presenter’s husband’s battle with Covid is honest, sweet and unsentimental. It’s a beautiful testament to the miracle of love

There are several miracles on show in Kate Garraway: Derek’s Story, the final part of what has become a trilogy of documentaries since the TV presenter’s husband, former Labour adviser Derek Draper, was felled by the catastrophic consequences of Covid four years ago.

The first is the absolute resistance by the makers of any temptation to wallow in the sadness. Like Garraway herself, all the films have been brisk, to the point, honest and deeply loving. This last part, despite covering the final year of Draper’s life, is as short, punchy and sweet as all the others.

We begin in May 2023, with Derek confirming that he wants to be on camera – “I want to be heard” – despite his physically reduced state and his multitude of continuing problems, which require intensive, round-the-clock care. The programme itself does not set out his issues in detail but anyone who has read any of Garraway’s accounts of what he (and by extension she, though she barely acknowledges it) has been through can only be harrowed and awed in equal measure by what it has taken to get him this far. The medical miracles are the unseen background to his story, but they have been myriad.

The point this instalment of the trilogy is here to make, however, is that it is also something of a daily miracle that he is still being cared for at home. To meet only the most basic of his needs – so, not including any of the therapies he needs, for instance – costs £4,000 a week.

While you will be treated without charge, regardless of means, while you are in an NHS hospital, only those with the very highest needs and the very lowest incomes qualify for state-funded care. The couple were told that Derek was not sick enough to qualify (again, reading any of her accounts suggests that no one in the UK can possibly qualify on these grounds). She appealed against that decision nearly three years ago and hasn’t heard anything since. She freely admits she has a generous salary – but that it is still not nearly enough to meet the costs of his incredibly complex needs. Figures given in the surrounding publicity, though not in the programme, say that Garraway could be as much as £800,000 in debt as a result.

Short interviews with a handful of the estimated 10.6 million other carers in the country attest to the financial shortfall (“I’m just existing”, “We’re scraping along … food banks … borrowing from friends and family”), but, as Garraway notes, it is the precarity of it all that is truly exhausting. So much precious energy spent fighting “a system that should be there to catch you when you fall but feels like it’s there to catch you out”. She brings the problem of the underlying mentality vividly to life when she points out that while society virtually worships the skill of the surgeon, it belittles the job of caring for someone – when, being so attuned to him that they know when “something is changing” has enabled his carers to save Derek’s life countless times over the past four years.

The abiding miracle – and I hope I can put this as straightforwardly and unsentimentally as the programme represents it – is love. The hour is bookended by footage of Derek’s speech at their wedding. “I have never felt more alive than when I’m in Kate’s presence,” he says at the beginning, and the irony is painful. At the end of the programme, after the funeral, when Kate and their children are in the house learning to be without him, we hear the final words of his speech. “Thank you for making me the happiest, safest, proudest man in the world.”

You can see what a comfort she is to him every moment they are together, even – especially – in extremis. Her love for him is almost palpable, and never more so when she is talking about how caring for someone warps all the usual ways and means of expression. “How does he show love? Do I feel loved by him? I know I am.” She is shattered and running on fumes – raising the children, going to work, navigating the byzantine (non) care system, and grieving the loss of “normal” life. And, she remains, through it all, devoted. It feels like a privilege to watch, this testament to the best there can be in humanity. No wonder he loved her. No wonder he felt so happy. No wonder he felt – and we can only hope it was to the very last – so safe.

Kate Garraway: Derek’s Story aired on ITV1 and is available on ITVX


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