When you meet Claes Hultling for the first time you can’t help but be impressed – it’s not that he has built up one of the best spinal cord centres in the world, or the fact that he has an encyclopaedic memory related to spinal injuries and research, it’s not the fact that he’s managed all this since his own spinal cord accident, which left him paralysed from the chest down, over 30 years ago.
All of these things matter of course, but what stands out more that anything is the drive and energy which radiates around everything he does. In typical Swedish fashion he goes about his business in an unassuming manner, discreet even, yet he is like a force of nature that sees no boundaries and you can only stand in awe at what he has achieved. That’s Claes Hultling.
POC was built on a clear and unambiguous mission that remains as relevant today as it did during its foundation – 10 years ago; ‘to do the best we can to possibly save lives and to reduce the consequences of accidents for gravity sports athletes and cyclists’. To deliver that mission needed medical experience and a competency that only a few people could offer.
‘POC CEO, Stefan Ytterborn, had a vision to ensure that any products developed were backed up by the latest science around spinal cord and brain injuries’ Claes recalls, ‘so to be at the forefront of safety, innovation and development POC Lab was created. It is POC’s own scientific forum, which brings together experts from a range of disciplines and medicine to support and provide advice to develop the most reliable and advanced protection on the market.’
Spinal cord injuries can vary significantly, and over a career that has now spanned 30 years, hundreds of spinal cord injury patients have benefited from the work undertaken by Spinalis, and in particular Claes’ own experience and perspective.
‘When I broke my neck over 30 years ago I, like many of the patients I work with, found it difficult to accept. It’s difficult to explain but feelings of isolation and anger are common and a sense of resignation that your life is over is ever-present. I will never accept my disability but it’s critical to find ways to live with it and consider life and its opportunities from a different perspective.’
‘This was the main reason I set up Spinalis. Each patient and injury is different but a full life after an accident is possible, especially if we ensure that the right support and research is there. Along with traditional support Spinalis also considers things differently, such as how disability affects fertility, pain, sex, incontinence, spacticity etc to give those living with disabilities the tools to build a new life’
‘In the future we may be able to reverse the impact of severe spinal cord injury but until that day – we should always look to reduce the consequences of accidents. Working with the scientific forum, POC lab, has given me an opportunity to apply the adage ‘prevention is better than cure’ and apply my knowledge to a whole range of products which I hope will make a difference to peoples lives.’
As a child Claes regularly sailed the waters around Stockholm, something he continues to this day. It may be in a slightly adapted boat but it’s one force of nature meeting another.