Tag Archives: Christopher Reeve

SCI Superstar: Claes Hulting

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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 ryggmärgskador i Botswana (english subtitles)

Spinalishandboken – Richard Levi & Claes Hultling

Wheelchair Art Installations

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Art can change the way you think and the way you see things. It can make you take pause, to wonder about something in this world that you didn’t before, which is why it’s great when art tackles disability.

Whether it’s showing a different way to view “failing”  by using an iconic piece of medical equipment to showing how we as people with disabilities thrive in spite of our disabilities, an art installment has the power to help the world see the truth behind disability.

For a look at some of the best art exhibits on disability, check out three of our favorites below.

Video #1: Superman’s Wheelchair at FAIL BETTER at Science Gallery

There’s nothing more poignant than seeing an empty wheelchair of its previous owner. The symbolism it carries is palatable, and heart-wrenching, which is my Mark Pollock from Ireland, a paraplegic and artist, decided to use Christopher Reeve’s old wheelchair for his art installation “Superman’s Wheelchair.”

The message of the exhibit is to talk about Christopher passionate fight to find a cure for paralysis and his failed attempt to do so, but it’s not intended to be negative. It’s meant to show that it was still worth the fight, as the alternative – still being paralyzed – isn’t much better. And he encompasses this message two words, “Fail better.”

Watch Mark discuss his art exhibit using Superman’s” wheelchair

Video #2: Old Persons’ Home Wheelchair Installation at Saatchi Gallery

For what is by far one of the weirdest wheelchair art exhibits you’ll ever see, check out this fascinating art exhibit that appeared at the Saatchi Gallery in London back in 2010 titled “Old Persons’ Home.” This art exhibit features several old, once powerful men in powerchairs aimlessly rolling around room a stark white room.

While this art exhibit may not be most positive disability message that could’ve been sent through an art exhibit – hey look these ones powerful guys who are now deemed less powerful because of their wheelchair – it’s meant to be satirical, and it is quite interesting to see so many wheelchairs in one singular exhibit.

Check out Old Persons’ Home by artists Sun Yuan and Peng Yu

Video #3: Wheelchair Roll Cage from the Dandelion Dance Theater

Located in San Francisco, California, the Dandelion Dance Theatre has no fear when it comes to experimenting with disabled performers, which is clear as day after you watch this video featuring one of their performers who uses a wheelchair and the roll cage that he made.

Yes that’s right, he created a roll cage for his manual wheelchair, which he rolls around on onstage with able-bodied performers, who either cling to the roll cage itself as it’s in motion, or do some kind of funky maneuvering stunt on it; and not surprisingly the end product is pure awesome.

Watch two performers practice the wheelchair roll cage

I think the message is quite simple: Don’t be afraid of what’s possible in the realm of artistic expression and the seemingly uninspiring wheelchair.  It can convey so much and so many emotions, making it the perfect symbol to include. I would love to see more people with disabilities creating art for this very purpose.

What message would you share if you created a disability art installation?

Watch the videos

“Superman’s Wheelchair” art exhibit in Ireland using Christopher Reeve’s old wheelchair

“Old Persons’ Home” art exhibit using multiple wheelchairs

Wheelchair performance art roll cage

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