IN what will be a difficult but inspiring watch for his many fans, rugby legend Doddie Weir will today describe his brave battle with Motor Neurone Disease on The Alex Salmond Show.
Filmed at Murrayfield, the home of Scottish rugby, former British Lion Weir opens up to Salmond about his struggle with Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
Weir discovered in December 2016 that he was suffering from the devastating condition, which affects around 5000 people in the UK alone.
In the exclusive interview with Scotland’s former First Minister, he says only one drug exists in the UK for MND treatment – and that was licensed 22 years ago.
Since then, there has been limited public funding into finding a better form of treatment or cure, although in Scotland there has been a recent increase in public nursing provision following the campaign by the late Gordon Aikman and the largely privately funded Euan MacDonald Centre at Edinburgh University.
Throughout the interview, Weir shows incredible spirit and courage in the face of the progressive and terminal condition. Describing the effects of MND, he says: “It’s a muscle wasting condition.
“You’re debilitated. You can’t do anything for yourself.”
Eventually, he says, “you can’t eat, can’t move, can’t dress, can’t go to the toilet, can’t breathe, even.”
Weir compares his current approach to his playing days, saying: “I’ve always taken the negative view – I always thought when the team got announced, I was going to get dropped. So if I was dropped, I was expecting it, so it wouldn’t be a shock. If I was in the team, I was quite delighted.”
Salmond interrupts his guest to point out that with 61 caps he wasn’t dropped very often, leading Weir to say he has to have the same attitude towards MND and that he was almost expecting his diagnosis.
“I had an idea that this is what it was,” says Weir, “so when I got told it, it was ‘okay, what to do now?’ It’s a ticket that someone has given me, so let’s just get on and see if we can try and get something sorted.”
He also reveals how he told his wider family in mid-January last year, which “makes life a lot easier – you’re not trying to hide so much when you’re having to go to doctor’s visits”.
Weir added that going public required a great deal of thought and was “pretty well timetabled”.
Weir is now reviewing world clinical research into MND. He recently returned from New York on a fact finding mission after Brian Kennedy, the former owner of the Sale Sharks rugby club in Greater Manchester, invited him to see some specialists. Weir says: “The Americans seem to be more up for trying things and giving things a go.”
Weir is looking to change attitudes and funding into MND here in the UK, and has set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
“There is a battle ahead, it’s like Scotland versus England”, he says, a “big important battle and I’m certainly here for a fight.”
Meanwhile, the latest ratings have seen the Alex Salmond Show soaring.
The January 25 “Robert Burns special” came in at number five in the weekly RT ratings with an estimated live audience for the 7.30am show of 27,000, representing an 80 per cent increase on the very first show broadcast last November.
The show’s senior producer and columnist for The National Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said: “It is great to have the hard evidence of the Alex Salmond Show building audience based on the quality of the production and wide range of topics covered.
“I think in particular those episodes where Alex features Scotland, such as the Robert Burns edition, have a particular appeal.”