Paralyzed Woman Attempts Inspirational Appalachian Trail Hike
After losing her mobility two years ago, Stacey Kozel is three months into a journey to hike the nearly 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail.
AFTON, Va. (WVIR) - An Ohio woman attempting to hike the nearly 2,200 mile Appalachian Trail is making her way through the Blue Ridge Mountains of central Virginia. It's an incredible trek for someone who required a wheelchair to get around just months ago.
Stacey Kozel became paralyzed following a car crash that triggered the Lupus she’d battled since a teen.
“I walked into the hospital and within a couple days, I lost all mobility. I couldn't move anything, I couldn't breathe,” she said.
Two years after that hospital visit, Kozel started her hike in Georgia on March 24. The 41-year-old is three months into the long trek from Georgia to Maine.
“The people out here are amazing, besides for the scenery. It's really the people that keep you motivated and push you through your day,” Kozel said.
She keeps motivated by the high tech C-Braces that help her take each step her of journey.
“There are sensors on the bottom of my feet that tell the computer how much tension I need at my knees,” Kozel stated.
Part of the reason that she decided to take on the challenge of the Appalachian Trail is to triumph over Lupus.
“Lupus kind of tries to take control of things, but I just don't want it to take control of my life,” Kozel said. “While I have any part of my body moving, I want to make sure I'm not taking it for granted.”
She also wants to prove the value of C-Braces to help other people overcome paralysis.
“I figured if I can show insurance companies I can get up and down mountains, maybe they would see they're necessary to improve the quality of life for other people,” she stated.
Kozel is following the white blazed trail, hiking from sun up to sun down to keep up with her trail family.
“I feel like so many people are counting on me, so I wake up thinking about that,” she said.
Kozel has come far enough to know, every step is a step forward.
“I just don't want people to give up on whatever they're going through because you never know what the future holds if you just keep going,” Kozel said.
Kozel says she and her medical team had to fight insurance to pay for the braces, which are $75,000 each.
Kozel currently hikes about 20 miles a day. She hopes to reach the halfway point on the Appalachian Trail by the Fourth of July weekend.