Paralyzed hiker completes Appalachian Trail

At first glance, Stacey Kozel looks like any other serious hiker: strong and completely in her element in nature.

The 41 year old from outside Cleveland is both of those things but she’s also incredibly determined. Because unlike most hikers, Stacey is paralyzed from the waist down but has, amazingly, accomplished what many able bodied people don’t even attempt. Stacey just completed the Appalachian Trail, in its entirety.

“It feels pretty amazing, actually,” she explained.

It took seven months for Stacey to hike from Georgia to Maine, about ten miles a day. Sensors attached to her feet trigger microprocessor equipped braces that stimulate her legs to go through the motions of walking. The technology certainly assisted but, really, it’s Stacey who made it happen.

“I don’t want people to give up. We never know what the future holds and we might even surprise ourselves,” she noted.

Doctors diagnosed Stacey with the autoimmune disease, Lupus, at 19. During the years, the disease has robbed the former athlete of more and more of her body. After the last flare up, Stacey was in a wheelchair and had to re-learn how to walk. Stacey’s worried the next one will leave her unable to sit up so the time to tackle the trail…was now.

“I wanted to take advantage of my arm and core and see what I can do,” noted Kozel. “The worst day on the trail is still better than the best day in the hospital.”

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