Artist draws from times of pain

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times
Artists Sue Berghuis-Garde and John Garde have experienced a horrible 8 months since John first began experiencing excruciating pain from dop-foot
Camera IconArtists Sue Berghuis-Garde and John Garde have experienced a horrible 8 months since John first began experiencing excruciating pain from dop-foot Credit: Jackson Lavell-Lee/Jackson Lavell-Lee

South West artist John Garde is slowly recovering from a debilitating nerve disease in which his own antibodies were eating away at nerves in his legs, resulting in near paralysis.

Garde began experiencing a steady progression of pins and needles, numbness and excruciating pain in the arch of his right foot in July before the ailment progressed to complete paralysis of his right leg and growing pain in his left.

Garde is now confined to a wheelchair, cannot drive and requires constant assistance.

A team of neurologists is investigating an autoimmune condition after several misdiagnoses of osteoarthritis.

Get in front of tomorrow's news for FREE

Journalism for the curious Australian across politics, business, culture and opinion.


Treatment has included CT scans, MRIs, blood tests, nerve tests and a spinal tap, plasma blood tests, morphine, oxycodone and other potent pain killers.

However, the esteemed artist believes nothing but drawing has alleviated the pain.

He has created 58 detailed portraits of the nurses, doctors, physios and fellow patients he has met during his agonising journey.

The current plasma exchange treatment is an invasive and painful several-day ordeal whereby Garde has litres of blood drained from his jugular vein.

“We didn’t have the right answer until we found the right doctor and I am now in a stabilising condition,” Garde said.

Despite his ordeal, Garde is hopeful of teaching art again in his new Bridgetown studio after several weeks in the rehabilitation facilities at Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Garde’s wife Sue Berghuis- Garde, who is now his carer, said the couple would like to thank the South West arts community for its continued financial support through an art auction at Margaret River Secret Garden.

“The auction really helped us in a time where Centrelink would not award the carer’s pension,” she said.

“To the friends, families, artists, businesses and individuals from the Dunsborough Yallingup arts community who donated, thank you.”

More than 200 people attended the ticketed event while Garde was in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

He has also been admitted to Bridgetown Hospital, Bunbury Regional Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital and even Vernon Hospital in France.

“The love we have felt around us from the arts community has kept us strong,” Garde said.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails