‘Rob Burrow: Living with MND’ – An Inspiring and Heart-Breaking Documentary
Hannah takes a look at Rugby League legend Rob Burrow’s inspiring battle with Motor Neurone Disease, in light of a new documentary that aired on Tuesday.
On Tuesday night, 30-minute documentary film ‘Rob Burrow: Living with MND’ aired on BBC Two, giving an insight into the battles and everyday routines that Rob Burrow and his family face every day following his diagnosis with Motor Neurone Disease. The 40-year-old is an English former professional rugby league player who spent his whole career playing for Leeds Rhinos in the Super League. He made 493 appearances for the club across his 17-year career as well as playing for England and Great Britain, representing his country. Burrow was recognisable by his strong yet small frame at only 5 ft 5 and widely known as one of the best talents of the game. He retired from the sport in 2017 after winning eight Super League championships becoming one of the most successful players in history.
In 2019, Rob was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND), a degenerative condition affecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord. MND gets gradually worse over time and moving around, swallowing, and breathing get increasingly difficult, and treatments like a feeding tube or breathing air through a face mask may be needed. The condition does reduce your life span, but how long it takes to reach this stage varies a lot. Rob was told back in 2019 that he would likely have a two-year life expectancy and yet he has surpassed this as well as a global pandemic. In December 2020, Rob was appointed MBE for his services to Rugby League and the Motor Neurone Disease community.
The documentary takes an intimate look at his life now, witnessing vulnerable moments between the family. His wife Lindsay has taken on the role of Rob’s primary carer as well as looking after their three young children. Lindsey is a physiotherapist in the NHS and frequently takes his swimming which eases his pain.
Throughout the film, Rob’s cheeky and charming side is on display as he told his mum that “she has a gob on her” whilst also explaining that he relies on his parents saying “I need my parents for everything. It’s like I’m their kid again.” Burrow communicates through a voice box and was able to keep his own voice as he recorded it before he lost his speech.
Kevin Sinfield, 42, is an ex-Leeds teammate of Rob Burrow. Since his retirement from Rugby League in 2015, he has gone on to coach in Rugby League moving to Rugby Union currently as the defence coach for Leicester Tigers. Since Burrow’s diagnosis he has been at the forefront of raising money and awareness of MND and in the documentary the bond between the two can be seen. “Kev is like a brother,” says Burrow. “The stress he puts on his body for me, it’s unbelievable.”
Sinfield has run seven marathons in seven days and 104 miles in just 24 hours raising over £ 4 million for MND research. Kevin’s upcoming fundraising challenge is to run seven ultra-marathons each day for a week. Burrow’s former captain told BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs `’I wanted to show them [his family] I cared” and that he is doing his “bit to raise awareness”. Describing his former team-mate, Sinfield says: “Pound for pound, he was probably the strongest player we had in the squad. I’m honoured to have played alongside him.”
Currently the 2021 Rugby League World Cup is being held in England from 15 October 2022 to 19 November 2022. The former England scrum-half Rob Burrow was the guest of honour when the Rugby League World Cup got under way at St James’ Park last Saturday.
I urge you all to watch this documentary, which you can find on BBC iPlayer, of an incredible man with incredible family and friends supporting him. They are my inspirations.
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