Jack Draper has revealed his grandmother’s suffering has inspired him to raise awareness of dementia by becoming an ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Society. “I am passionate about finding a cure so we can finally bring an end to the devastation caused by dementia,” said the British No.4.
Draper’s maternal grandparents Brenda and Chris used to follow Draper’s matches around the country and even attend his training sessions. But the heartbroken world No.61 said that the 77-year-old, a former tennis player who inspired him to play the game, now “doesn’t know who I am”.
Draper said: “Tennis comes from my Nana. She was a tennis coach to me and my brother Ben when she was younger. She was always our biggest fan along with my grandad. She is 77. When she was mid 60s, she got hit with this cruel disease, Alzheimer’s which has caused a slow, gradual decline in her health. Ever since it has been a steady decline. She has lost all physicality now. “It has been devastating for me and my family to see my grandmother’s condition deteriorate. This is a disease which completely takes away the person you knew.
“I remember her and my Pa coming to watch not only my matches all around the country, summer and winter, but also many of my coaching sessions. They were always in my corner.
“My Pa, who is Nana’s main carer, still brings her to the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton to watch me train but she doesn’t know who I am, and if my tennis matches are on TV, he will tell Nana it’s me but it doesn’t register with her anymore. She doesn’t know who anyone is.
“This is probably the saddest part for me and my family, that she no longer recognises or is able to communicate with us. I wish she could see and appreciate all the things I’ve achieved so far as I know she would be very proud of me.”
There are over 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, with this number set to rise to 1.6million by 2040.
Draper, who will head off to the Australian Open on December 29 after spending Christmas with his family, said: “This is difficult to share because she means so much to me. But It is something that comes from my heart.
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“That’s something I really want to be involved in. The initial shock of something like that happening is almost tougher. To see the person that you love, your Nana, almost fade away a bit. It is good to spread awareness.
“It’s nice to be able to use a platform to help organisations or charities. I think it is really important.”
Alzheimer’s Society CEO Kate Lee, said: ‘We’re so incredibly moved that in order to raise much-needed awareness, Jack has decided to share publicly the heartbreaking details of his nana’s dementia. It’ll make so many others feel less alone.”
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