SCI Superstar: Claes Hulting


Considered by many as the Christopher Reeve of Sweden, Claes Hulting since his injury has dedicated his life to promoting enhanced rehabilitation and research of spinal cord injuries. And what he’s created, Spinalis, a cutting edge rehab facility in Sweden, is admired around the globe.

Being the founder of an amazing foundation is just one thing Claes is known for too. He’s also a physician (he worked as an anesthesiologist before his injury) and is in the history books for being the first person with a spinal cord injury to have a child via in-vitro fertilization (a son who’s now turning 18!).

To learn more about a man who can be credited for helping thousands of people with spinal cord injuries live healthier and fuller lives, this is the story of Claes Hulting.

Why he’s fearless

In 1984, a dive from a jetty off the coast of Sweden is the beginning of Claes’ SCI journey. At the time – he was engaged and working as an anesthesiologist – life was perfect. But while vacationing with friends, they took a sauna and Claes decided to dive in the ocean afterwards, hitting his head and becoming a C5-6 quad.

Doctors back then were ignorant, and didn’t want him to get married, saying, “You are going to be a vegetable for the rest of your life.” Needless to say this angered Claes deeply, and it was the precipice for him to fight against how people with spinal cord injuries were rehabilitated and treated in Sweden. At the time of his injury, no rehab for people of spinal cord injuries existed in Sweden except the basics.

Claes, who hails from a bohemian family that has always been interested in improving society, took this as the opportunity to change a bad change situation, and he did so with the help of others who were also affected by spinal cord injury. But first, Claes became the first man with a spinal cord injury to get his wife pregnant using in-vitro.

Next, in 1990, he founded Spinalis, an organization funded by three large corporations in Sweden. Government funding wasn’t available, so they went the corporate route. And so far it’s been successful. Claes created Spinalis with the idea that it would one day be the best rehabilitation facility for people spinal cord injuries in the entire world, and it’s close.

Since it was founded in 1990, the Spinalis campus is unrivaled among most rehab centers in the world. The facility, designed to be bright like the Google headquarters, contains around 30 rooms, cutting edge rehab facilities and even has a “garage” where patients can build and tinker (not do lame macrame).

Perhaps the most exciting thing about Spinalis though is the fact that it’s a philosophical- based rehab, equally focusing on the patient’s heart and soul, as well as their bodies, and teaching them how to carry on with life without feeling pressured to fully accept their situations

What’s next?

Spinalis is thriving more than ever, more than 24 years later. Claes recently moved the focus of Spinalis on Australia, a country that could use some improvement in how they treat and aid individuals with SCI. He is heavily promoting the need for SCI research while he’s down under too.

Speaking is another area Claes is checking out. Talking about the importance of a lust for life is near and dear to his heart (and is something he spoke on for TEDx earlier this year; watch), all as he continues his quest for rising the standard of SCI rehab around the globe.

Have you been to Spinalis?

– Check it out: Spinalis

Watch the videos!

Lust for life: Claes Hultling at TEDxKTH

Claes Hultling, Spinalis Foundation, om rehabilitering av ryggmÀrgskador i Botswana (english subtitles)

Spinalishandboken – Richard Levi & Claes Hultling

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