Behind the Curtain: Laurence's lengthy battle with vascular disease

Laurence Stidworthy Laurence Stidworthy has had 10 operations in his ongoing battle with vascular disease.
Behind the curtain highlights some of the many patients Bendigo Health care for on a daily basis.

For a man who has had more bad luck than most, Laurence Stidworthy is surprisingly philosophical.

At 20 years of age, he was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy and told he’d be in a wheelchair by 40.

He fought the disease, building up mental and physical strength to remain upright.

“You’ve got to be strong for as long as possible, too many people (with muscular dystrophy) give up,” he said.

“Everyone has the capacity to deal with things well, sometimes they just don’t know how to.”

As Laurence began to manage his illness, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and later peripheral vascular disease, a circulatory condition which results in reduced blood flow to the limbs.

“My foot went purple, I was struggling to bare weight,” he said.

Nine unsuccessful operations later, over a period of three years, a decision was made to amputate his leg below the knee.

“They tried everything, taking veins from my arms, groin, but the cramps kept coming back,” he said.

The irony of avoiding the wheelchair for so long with muscular dystrophy only to succumb to it through vascular diseases is not lost on Laurence.

“Sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches,” he said.

 “There’s no point in stressing about things you can’t change.”

The 59-year-old former Papa New Guinea junior swimming champion is somewhat of a cult figure on the rehabilitation ward at Bendigo Health, motivating fellow patients through exercise and friendship.

“It’s not hard to put your arm around someone and make the effort,” he said.

**Since we spoke with Laurence, he underwent a tenth operation, an above the knee amputation due to his existing wound not healing properly.