Rugby hero Rob Burrow’s new hope in motor neurone battle after Covid-19 vaccine
Rugby hero Rob Burrow says the Covid vaccine has lifted his hopes of a breakthrough in the battle against motor neurone disease.
The gritty Leeds Rhinos legend says the “incredible” work of scientists in developing a coronavirus jab in under a year has allowed him to dream of a “solution to end MND”.
Rob – awarded an MBE last week for his services to raising awareness of MND – was diagnosed with the incurable disease in December 2019.
It has ravaged his body and, at the age of just 38, he can no longer speak.
But he is still able to express his thoughts, using a voice app.
And he defiantly declared last night: “We have got incredible scientists and research facilities in this country.
“A year ago, most of us had not heard of Covid, yet we now have two working vaccines.
“That gives me great hope. If we can invest enough money and time into research, we can find a solution and end MND forever.”
Rob won eight rugby league Grand Finals, three World Club Challenges and two Challenge Cups in his 17-year career with the Rhinos.
He and wife Lyndsey, 37, have three children – daughters Macy, nine, Maya, five, and son Jackson, two.
Rob has helped raise huge sums for MND charities. Now, writing exclusively for the Sunday Mirror, he talks of the joy of seeing Jackson celebrate his birthday.
But he reveals the pandemic wrecked family plans to travel to Florida.
Rob writes of his family: “Of course Covid-19 and the lockdown have had a huge impact on our plans for the year.
“We had hoped to take a number of family holidays and give the children some incredible experiences.
“A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to buy an apartment in Florida.
“The kids love everything Disney and we wrongly presumed we would be able to spend time over there during 2020 to put a smile on their faces.
“However, 2020 has taught us all to appreciate everything that we have and, with the school closed, it was an incredible privilege to be with the girls and help them with their home schooling.
“Jackson turned one the week of my diagnosis so watching him grow and learn has been wonderful.
“Obviously, when the girls were his age, I was still playing so there were a lot of demands on my time with training and playing. But it feels like such a gift to be able to do the simplest of things, like giving him a bottle, helping him take his first steps… just making him laugh.”
Rob was given just one to two years to live in December 2019.
The degenerative condition attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
Speaking of the incredible awareness-raising campaign, Rob added: “I feel very much part of Team MND and it has been heartening and heartbreaking in equal measure to share the stories of other people’s journey with MND.
“When first diagnosed, it was a condition I had heard of but knew little about.
“That conversation has led to so much in terms of fundraising and awareness… we have started the ball rolling and there is no stopping us now.”
Rob also hailed rugby pals Doddie Weir, who has MND, and Kevin Sinfield, who ran seven marathons in seven days to raise £2.5million for MND.
He added: “The best possible ‘drug’ available for MND is a positive attitude and that remains a huge motivation for me.
“My voice has gone but I communicate via my phone app which uses hundreds of hours of audio from me from my playing days to help form words.
“I’m in good spirits and have a positive mindset.”
It was that determination that made Rob such a success, despite being the Super League’s smallest player at 5ft 5in.
He took up coaching in 2017 and got a huge reception when he and his kids went on for a Leeds testimonial last January.
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