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How A Quadriplegic Man Of San Diego And Sweden Views The World

The view of Terminal 1 at San Diego Airport, as seen by photographer David Th...

Credit: David Thulin Photography

Above: The view of Terminal 1 at San Diego Airport, as seen by photographer David Thulin.

David Thulin can't move or speak. Four years ago, he suffered a stroke immediately after his chiropractor adjusted his neck. He had another stroke the following day — he was, as he calls it, "locked in."

This was 2009, just 14 days after he married his wife. His daughter was 3 years old.

He could only move his eyes up and down. His chances of survival were around 10 percent. Now, he has minimal use of his body. He is still mute. Though he has physical restraints, he is very healthy. Thulin flies regularly. Now, he is about to embark on a 10-stop international photography tour that will bring him to Singapore, Hong Kong and Dubai, among others.

Thulin and his caretaker will cross the world to capture images to fill the pages of his fifth and sixth books. His first four books were all text, varying in content. One examined socialized medicine in relation to his experience. Another is a pithy user's guide for life in a wheelchair. The other two were fictional tales.

Thulin is now 33 years old. He moved to San Diego in 2002 when he was 22. He wanted to travel far from his native Sweden, but still find something like home. His grandparents lived in Vista. He studied geography at MiraCosta College in Oceanside where his uncle taught math. He, his wife and daughter, are all dual citizens of the U.S. and Sweden. From the Swedish government, Thulin gets paid disability, and a 24-hour caretaker. From San Diego, Thuiln finds beautiful scenery to photograph and a second home. He plans to move back to San Diego to continue his education and immerse his daughter in the English language.

David Thulin's daughter, Ella, age 6.

His passion for photography came after he was forced into his new perspective that comes from being in a wheelchair. He now views the world a few feet lower than most, and the new angles struck Thulin when he photographed his daughter, Ella. Previously, pictures he took of her were from above. At Ella’s level, Thulin’s pictures of her were better than ever.

"Being in a wheelchair is really no problem," he says through his caretaker, who reads from a keyboard print-out (pictured below), "but being mute is difficult ... my daughter does not read."

Photo caption:

Photo by Nate John

Printed words are Thulin’s sole communication. He didn’t start publishing until he was wheelchair-bound.

Photo by Nate John

Armed with his adjusted camera, Thulin stabilizes the device with a handle in his stronger left hand while capturing the image on a touchscreen with his right. (Balboa Park)

He can communicate with his daughter in some ways. They have signs to say “I love you” and “you’re the best.” But his inability to speak directly to his daughter was one of the hardest adjustments.

For conversation, Thulin points to letters on his keyboard print-out or matching tattoo (pictured here). But conversing with him in this way takes a long time — it requires patience. Ella has none.

Looking Ahead

From his lower perspective, Thulin will focus on details in airports and cities that he feels go unnoticed normally. He estimates his two new books will be available in three weeks, with more coming later.

On his general quality of life, Thulin is optimistic. He is happy to find passions like writing and photography to fill his days.

"I am having fun," he said. "There is no reason at all to feel sad for me."

You can find Thulin's work published here.

Below: Thulin's Work From San Diego Airport


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