David Thomas, a 36-year-old man from Bessemer, Alabama, hadn’t left the county area in more than two decades. But on Monday, a friend posted a video of Thomas making his first-ever trip to see the ocean in Panama City Beach — and the video is touching hearts on social media.
Thomas was born with cerebral palsy and was only given a short time to live after birth, WIAT reported.
Cerebral palsy is a brain condition that mainly affects balance and muscle movements, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The symptoms can vary in severity, and there is no cure. Now 36 years old, Thomas gets around with a motorized wheelchair.
Thomas had gone on a trip with his high school when he was 16 but had never left the county area since then, AL.com reported. That is, until a good friend decided he wanted to give Thomas an experience he’d never had before.
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That friend was Izas Fuller, who told AL.com he was inspired to take Thomas to the beach after Thomas commented on some Facebook photos he had shared years ago.
“It was a place I always wanted to go,” Thomas told WJHG. “I have been in a wheelchair all my life. I pretty much have been [in] Bessemer all my life. I’ve never been able to walk. I’ve always been in a wheelchair and, you know, I just try to make the best of my life, the best of my situation.”
In July, Thomas went with Fuller and his family to Panama City Beach in Florida to see the ocean for the first time. A video of his first encounter with the sea went viral on Facebook.
In the video, a smiling Thomas gazes at the waves silently for a while. He turns to the camera and begins talking.
“I’m just happy to be here ... cause I never really do anything,” Thomas says. “This is so beautiful, and I just thank God for making this possible.”
But he didn’t have to stay up on the hotel deck. Fuller was able to raise money to rent a motorized wheelchair with all-terrain tires so Thomas could actually roll across the sand and get right up to the water, AL.com reported.
“It took me years to get here, but God made a way for me to get here,” Thomas told WJHG, “I never imagined it looking like this, but it’s beautiful. I love it and don’t want to go home.”
He told AL.com it was “like a dream. Like something I didn’t want to wake up from.”
The video of Thomas seeing the ocean was viewed more than 50,000 times, and many commented on the video praising Fuller’s kindness and Thomas’s spirit.
Fuller told WIAT Thomas is “a blessing to be around.”