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KATE Garraway has revealed her husband Derek Draper broke down in tears after using the toilet for the first time on his own.
The 54-year-old, who was hospitalised with coronavirus in March 2020,remains bed-stricken and needing around-the-clock care.
Derek, who is unable to talk beyond a faint whisper and struggles to speak more than one or two words at any given time.
But in a huge step forward, Derek was able to go to the loo for the first time outside of his bed since falling ill.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Kate said: “What's heartbreaking is that this is progress, him using the commode without me, that's an achievement.
“He cried afterwards partly because he’s pleased, but also, I think, it’s a case of: ‘Christ, is that where we are?’
“But we have to celebrate the tiny things because they are big things - they mean progress.”
Kate told how her Covid-stricken husband secretly jetted to North America for a ground-breaking medical trial in November last year.COUPLE'S VIRUS BATTLE SEX RAT SHOWDOWN DOUBLE TROUBLE BABY JOY
The GMB star pursued the trip when a world renowned U.S doctor contacted her after seeing Derek’s plight on TV.
Kate accompanied the critically ill psychologist on a gruelling 16 hour journey where he underwent pioneering treatment at a specialist clinic in Monterrey, Mexico.
Incredibly, Derek is due to return to the centre next month for another 28 day stay as doctors continue to monitor his brain, liver and lung function.
Last night Kate said: “It took weeks and weeks of planning, and when I told Derek about this place he was excited.
“He is just so desperate to get better - he will do anything he can to make that happen.
“I think actually there's a huge amount of hope for him to improve. I think the treatment could be positive.
“I want to be slightly careful about saying too much, because I'm aware that everybody will go, "What is the trial?" And I don't want to start something, offering up false hope to others who might be in a similar position.
“But I'm just so desperate to be able to give a happy ending - for Derek mainly, but also for everybody who asks me every day how he’s getting on.
“I’m desperate to be able to tell them he’s getting better… but of course he’s not out of the woods yet.
“It’s hard to say how the treatment went so far, as it’s very early in the treatment programme and he will need much more. We are also still waiting for final analysis of all the scans, but I like there was a lot of positives.”
Ironically, the doctor in charge of Derek’s treatment plan and analysis is currently off sick, with Covid.
One early scan on his brain, however, showed bright patches of white - something one neurologist said was more usually seen in patients with vascular dementia.
But Kate is yet to have an agreed diagnosis on precisely what covid did to Derek’s brain and body because experts still don’t fully understand the long-term effects of the virus.
Ahead of his transatlantic flight, Derek had to undergo oxygen and pressure tests to check he was able to cope with flying at 40,000ft.
Kate also had to employ a specialist travel nurse to ensure his safety.
“He was quite a nervous flyer anyway,” she adds. “So you can imagine how draining and overwhelming this must have been for him.
“But he was amazing, and was aware of what was going on the whole time. I’m so proud of him.”
News of this latest development will be shown in a new documentary, Caring For Derek - a follow-up to Kate’s award-winning Finding Derek.
Viewers will once again see the toll put on the couple by the former spin doctor’s crippling illness.
While Derek - who may never be able to walk again because the tendons and muscles in his legs have seized up from having been in an induced coma for so long - sleeps between 16-20 hours a day, it’s clear Kate is surviving on barely a quarter of this.
She remains utterly stoic.
Her biggest fear, she says, is people thinking she’s having a “pity party”.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
In Tuesday’s doc, viewers will get a warts n’ all insight into the daily grind of looking after frail Derek.
While he still requires 24 hour expert care - he would die within three days should he be left unaided - Kate continues to do do a super-human amount of it herself.
She often gets up every two hours in the night to help the overnight carer to move him in bed, and she has to wash and change his bed linen a staggering seven times a day.
The presenter has also privately rented a hyperbaric oxygen tank - as used by Novak Djokovic - in the hope it will help restore Derek’s severely damaged lung function.
She is also desperate to try hydrotherapy for him - but sadly many centres closed during the pandemic.
On the day we meet, in a pub near her north London home where she and Derek regularly used to dine, an emotional Kate is evidently shattered.
She repeatedly apologises for the “state” of her chipped polish fingernails. Understandably, manicures are no longer up there on her list of priorities.
As well as looking after her husband of 16 years, professionally Kate has never been busier.
The mum of two is up at 3.15am twice weekly to host Good Morning Britain, she fronts a daily show on Smooth Radio and recently took over from Piers Morgan on Life Stories.
She’s also about to launch an augmented reality medical series for the BBC and received an MBE for services to broadcasting, journalism and charity in the New Years Honours.
Derek appears to have complete cognitive function - but is largely “locked-in” and unable to express himself clearly.
Which, she says, is “incredibly frustrating and upsetting” for him.
He is aware of the documentary and, on screen, says he wants to be filmed: “I think his main thing is he feels like he's contributing by us putting it out there.”
Kate admits to feeling desperately lonely in the wake of Derek’s illness.
She explains: “For me, it’s like there’s both grief and hope in the same moment.
“There are flashes of the old Derek and then he disappears again, and you’re left just feeling really lonely.
“Derek dreams about the ‘before’, and every morning it’s just so, so awful seeing him wake up, and the realisation of where he is.
“There’s a kind of heartbreak in his eyes, every single morning. You can just see it.
“It reminds me of when you'd have a horrible breakup and wake up in the morning, feeling all right - and then that sort of soccer punch of remembering.”
One-time lobbyist Derek has told Kate his dream is to one day work again - “but I don’t know if that’s realistic”, she sighs.
A bon viveur, Derek was rarely seen at events without a glass of wine in hand. He was invariably the life and soul of any party.
So to see his demise today - he’s lost around five stone - is even more stark.
“Derek was a big, and I mean BIG, eater, forever with a glass of red wine. Now he doesn't really express hunger.
“He tried some champagne once, but he just doesn’t really want it now.
“Comparing him to before is very strange - he is just so different. It’s almost like living with a stranger.”
In the show, viewers will see Derek request some prawn cocktail crisps and a ham sandwich - a rare flash of the Before Derek.
He is also able to use an iPad - “although he hasn’t been reading any of the coverage about himself” - and has re-watched all of Game Of Thrones.
A one-time voracious reader, he has read just one book in the past two years - Celia Walden’s debut thriller, Payback.
Kate smiles: “I asked him if the main character was based on Piers [Morgan - Celia’s husband], and he said, ‘Not really’.
“We had quite a long chat about the book, it was the most engaged he had been in a long time. It was great.
“So there are these moments of normality, and hope. It’s these I cherish.”
In caring for him, Kate must perform the grimmest of tasks in order to keep her husband clean and functioning.
Such level of enforced intimacy has brought the couple closer in ways they would never once thoughtimaginable.
For Valentine’s Day he was able to sign a card for her that the couple’s 15-year-old daughter Darcey had bought, writing ‘Hello Wiffy Wifey’ - “his old nickname for me”.
He had hoped to be able to take her out for dinner but “obviously” that “wasn’t possible.”
She adds: “We're still in love. We tell each other we love each other all the time.
“I think he is still the man I fell in love with, absolutely. Of course he is. Except for the fact that his behaviour can't be the same.
“He wants to be able to go out on a date again one day. I think he wants to be able to stand up next to me and for us to go out on a date.
“Our relationship still feels romantic. It is romantic. The other day he and Darcey lit a candle so we could have a candlit evening together.
The heartbroken presenter says she still loves her other half - who remains bed-stricken and needing around-the-clock care.
“But it is finding that new balance. I mean, Derek was always the boss. He was very powerful and would fix things.
“And so it's finding a new balance where you are a carer, but you're not losing other things.
“And I'll help with those really intimate things with, say, the toilet. I'll say, ‘Are you okay?’
“He will always say he would rather I not be doing this. And I say, ‘Right, but I've got to do it.’
“There are other times when he's just so weak. I don't think we're at the point where it's awkward yet, because he's still so unwell.
“Derek’s actually always been quite a big crier, and emotionally in tune, and I think that’s even more the case now.
“But really, he could have died. It may not be perfect now but he is alive, and for that I am grateful every day. We still have Derek.”
Caring For Derek airs on Tuesday night on ITV1 at 9pm.