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Heartache behind smiles of Wolves legend Derek Dougan's family

Staffordshire | News | Published:

[gallery] A mother's smile to her beloved son – but behind it lies a tale of heartache.

Jutta Dougan, the widow of Wolves legend Derek, makes a 1,700-mile round trip to see the couple's son Alexander every two weeks after he was struck down by a mystery virus while on a holiday in the Caribbean back in 2009.

Two years after the death of his wife Jean and his footballing father – who in a cruel fate twist of fate both passed away on June 24, 2007 – the University of Warwickshire law student decided to go on a family trip to Barbados that would see him end up fall victim to the condition he is living with today.

The 49-year-old went away with his daughter Olivia, who was aged one at the time, and the family of his new partner Marie.

Days into the trip though Mr Dougan fell ill and was unable to talk or walk.

His mother, who was born in Munich but living in Wolverhampton at the time, said: "He called me saying he didn't feel well and I told him he needed to go to a doctor.

"He got antibiotics and that was the last I heard of him. He changed rooms so I didn't know where he was to contact. But I got a call from Marie's family saying Alexander couldn't talk or walk."

Mr Dougan was in such a depleted state he had to be carried onto the plane for the nine-hour flight back to Manchester Airport.

His mother, knowing her son was ill, contacted airline staff to get an update on her son's condition.

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She explained: "The staff contacted the captain who went to the back of the plane to see if Alexander was okay. He thought Alexander had flown out that way, in a disabled state, so when he informed his staff at the airport he was okay the ambulance on stand-by was cancelled.

"But he was put in a wheel chair to come off the plane and when I saw him I nearly died, he looked old and grey – he looked about 90-years old. We called an ambulance and the paramedics said he should never have flown."

Mr Dougan, who now struggles to speak, said the last thing he could remember was coming off the plane. He wasn't to regain conciousness for weeks and had a spell in intensive care at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester where he remained for three months. His mother slept by his side for 16 hours a day with her hand on his arm in case he moved or reacted in any way at all.

Although doctors didn't know what had caused it, they said he had been struck down with a virus called Encephalitis that had attacked part of his brain and affected his speech as well as leaving him wheelchair bound.

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Mrs Dougan said: "He'd been snorkelling and they weren't sure if it was poisonous fish, they weren't sure if it was something he ate, he woke up one morning to find a pipe had been dripping on him and we don't know if it was a contaminated pipe or a sewage pipe.

"It is a mystery."

Before he fell ill, Mr Dougan, a former language teacher at King Edward VI High School in Stafford, had played sport including football, playing as a left back.

His father, who died at the age of 69, played 258 times for Wolves and scored 95 goals. As a boy Mr Dougan would go to the matches with his mother and younger brother Nicholas to watch his dad at Molineux and would even sign mock autographs for fans who were hunting for his father's signature.

He has a 21-year-old son, also called Alex, who now works in Munich.

After treatment in Manchester, Mr Dougan was moved to Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital before switching to West Park Hospital for treatment. He has since moved to a care home in Redditch to be closer to his partner Marie and daughter Olivia.

His 70-year-old mother flies between the West Midlands and her home in Munich, where she also cares for her elderly mother, every two to three weeks to visit her son.

She said: "When I see him this way I can only describe it like having a rock on your chest. It's always there and it doesn't go away.

"To see him before as a healthy active man to the way he is now is a nightmare. I smile but I smile for him, I can't be here for him forever and it's that upsets me.

"I have to smile because I can't be around him feeling sorry for myself because he would be sad too and what good is that?"

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