Lindsey Burrow on husband Rob's MND diagnosis as documentary about Leeds Rhinos star shortlisted for NTA
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As well as maintaining a demanding job with the NHS, the energetic 40-year-old spends a great deal of her time caring for her husband, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND) in 2019.
And on top of family life and her career, the Castleford native still finds time to explore her love of running, which she discovered while taking on her first marathon earlier this year, raising £110,000 for charity in the process.
But it was not until a recent documentary that the full extent of her tireless work was made clear.
‘Rob Burrow: Living with MND’, which aired in October, proved an emotional watch for viewers. The 30-minute film showed the impact that the MND diagnosis has had on the former Leeds Rhinos star and his family.
Now, it has been shortlisted for a National Television Award - and people have been urged to vote for the documentary to win.
In an exclusive interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post, Lindsey has opened up about the impact Rob's diagnosis has had - and how she manages to balance her huge list of responsibilities.
Letting cameras into the family’s Pontefract home was a daunting prospect, she admitted, but it was with the knowledge of her husband’s passion for raising awareness about the disease that she agreed.
She said: "He wanted to show that MND affects the whole family. I think the documentary has done that - and the outpouring of love for Rob has been incredible. It has inspired people in many ways, and given them hope.
"Despite the devastating diagnosis, I think you can take a lot of positives from the film. It's about never giving in. We all pull together to make the most of life. The documentary shows the brutality of the disease, but it also shows how positive Rob is. He is such a tower of strength for the family."
Since it aired, Lindsey and Rob’s daughters Macy and Maya have been discussing which of the two sisters is the most famous.
But as exciting as it was to watch themselves on TV, they found some scenes upsetting, including one that showed their mum breaking down in tears.
"I try to put on a brave face,” Lindsey said. “But the reality is that there are sad times ahead and I think it's important that the children see that emotional side.
"It's important that they know it's okay to be upset. I'm glad they've seen it. I think hopefully in years to come we can say: look at your dad's legacy. There is so much to be proud of him for."
The documentary also gave the family a chance to pause and reflect on their journey so far, as though they were seeing it through strangers' eyes. For many watching at home, it was Lindsey's resilience that was especially touching.
From her career as a physiotherapist at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, to literally carrying her husband up the stairs to bed in the evening, viewers were given a glimpse at her busy itinerary.
Still, she feels fortunate to be able to work - as many carers are forced to leave their jobs behind after a diagnosis like Rob's. It is thanks to her parents – as well as Rob's parents – that she is able to continue, as they help with her husband’s care.
Lindsey has worked for the NHS since qualifying in 2004. She specialises in spinal issues and spends one day a week at the hospital, finishing the rest of her work from home.
It's a job she enjoys, particularly when she can see the role she has played in a patient's rehabilitation. Keeping up with work while managing childcare and Rob's needs has been inspiring for many who have followed the family’s story.
Lindsey added: "Don't get me wrong, there are times when there aren't enough hours in the day. But when I look at what Rob's going through, it's nothing. It puts things into perspective."
Lindsey is also passionate about fundraising. As an ambassador for the Leeds Hospitals Charity, she is keen to see a state-of-the-art specialist care centre built in the city to give people with MND the best possible support.
It will be named after Rob and it is hoped it will completely transform the experience of visiting hospital for people living with the disease.
Currently, MND services are provided from an outdated ward in Seacroft. Lindsey said: "The clinical care is excellent, but the environment is not fit for purpose. The walk from the car park is a trek and the rooms are dark and dingy. Having this new centre would mean the world."
On the rare occasions that Lindsey has some spare time, she likes to run. Training for the inaugural Rob Burrow Leeds Marathon earlier this year was a welcome distraction from other concerns, as it gave her a chance to clear her head.
In less than two months, she will take on the Yorkshire Marathon in the hope of beating the time she set at the earlier race.
For now, though, the focus remains on Rob. Since the documentary was filmed last summer, his health has more or less remained the same - although he did suffer a frightening bout of pneumonia last month, just before the children broke up for the school holiday.
He was taken into hospital and now relies on a ventilator at night to ensure that there is not a build-up of carbon dioxide in his body.
Lindsey explained: "Fortunately, he bounced back, which is something that Rob always does. He really won't give in to this disease.
"Rob's positivity ripples through the whole family and you think: if he can be positive in this situation, I need to be positive. Life is just so busy that you don't have time to sit around feeling sorry for yourself.
"We just want to live as normal a life as possible, make lots of happy memories and enjoy the time we’ve got together."
She said the family would be thrilled if the documentary wins a National Television Award next week.
"We feel like winners just being on the shortlist," Lindsey explained. "There were 26 films on the longlist, so to get down to the last four is incredible.
"Rob said there's absolutely no chance of winning and I'd like to prove him wrong - but we're under no illusions and know this is a really tough category.
"I can't think of anyone more deserving than Rob to win this award. He has opened his doors to show the world the brutality of MND and what it's like living with it at a time when he's at his most vulnerable. To do that is really brave and courageous.
"He has given people so much hope. He's just an all-round selfless, special person."
Referring to the heart-warming moment when Rob’s former teammate Kevin Sinfield finished the marathon with him earlier this year, Lindsey added: "Just like Kevin carried Rob over the finish line, let's carry Rob over the finish line at the National Television Awards."
To vote for ‘Rob Burrow: Living with MND’, go to the National Television Awards website.