Thursday, December 1, 2022

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Burrow would not discourage kids from rugby despite MND fight

Rob Burrow has no regrets playing rugby league and wouldn’t stop his children from following in his footsteps.

The former Scrum-half from Leeds and the UK is now confined to a wheelchair and unable to perform basic functions unaided as motor neuron disease takes hold of his body.

Former rugby players are 15 times more likely to have MND than average, according to a new study, but Burrow, who was diagnosed with the disease in December 2019, isn’t entirely convinced by the results.

“It was such a small rehearsal that I can’t really comment on it,” Burrow said. “More research needs to be done.”

Burrow, who won eight Super League titles during his glittering career with the Rhinos, insists he would not change his past and would be happy if children Macy, 10, Maya, seven, and Jackson, three, would start rugby.

“I want my kids to play whatever sport they want,” he said, using eye-recognition technology. “There is no evidence that anything causes MND. I think I was so unlucky that I got the disease.

“The positive outweighs the negative. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the experience I’ve gained through playing rugby league, the friendships and bonds and life experiences and traveling around the world.”

Rob and his wife Lindsey, who looks after her husband full-time despite having to look after their three young children and has a job as a physiotherapist, are the subjects of the BBC documentary Rob Burrow: Living with MND, which follows next airs Tuesday.

It’s a moving and intimate account of how the family is coping with the debilitating illness while still remaining somehow optimistic, with Burrow claiming he “will not give up until my last breath” as he has “too many reasons to live”. .

In the heartbreaking documentary, he says: “I’m a prisoner in my own body so MND gets you.” The lights are on but nobody is home.”

Essentially a private person, Lindsey speaks openly about the difficulties the family faces and poignantly contemplates a future without her childhood sweetheart.

“I watched it again and there were a lot of tears,” she said. “I cried almost the whole time.

“As soon as I start talking about Rob and the kids and the future, it’s heartwarming.

“I’m out of my comfort zone, but at the end of the day, it’s not about us. The reason for this is to raise awareness of how brutal and cruel and devastating MND is and how it affects not just the individual but the whole family.

“For me to do an interview is nothing compared to what Rob and many other sufferers are going through, it puts it into perspective and if we can help another person or create more awareness and more funding for research it can only be a good thing be.

“It’s really difficult to do these interviews, but I don’t want people to be sad. Yes, it’s a sad story, but there’s also a lot of hope in seeing the kids and how much they love life.

“If you turn it on its head, the message I hope people will learn from is that life is for living and despite whatever life throws at you, despite the heartache and sadness, you always do can still have happy times and good memories.”

The documentary arguably stars Macy, who describes a biography she wrote about her father as part of a school project.

“They were asked to write about someone who had inspired them, and Macy chose to write about her father,” Lindsey explained.

“It was never intended to appear in the documentary, but some of the things she said fitted really well. She told the story almost through them.

“It tells the story of how much she looks up to Rob and what a brilliant father figure he was to the kids and how much they think of him.

“The kids just love life and waking up in the morning to see the three kids happy and smiling keeps you going.”

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