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Stacey's Journey

Paralyzed Hiker, Stacey Kozel, Walks the Appalachian Trail to Spread a Positive Message

We invite you to read the article below from WDBJ7, Roanoke County, Virginia. It is a follow-up with our patient Stacey Kozel. Thank you, Amanda Kenney of WDBJ7 for your wonderful interview with Stacey Kozel! Her story has been aired coast to coast on dozens of networks and shows, including:

  • Charlottesville CBS19
  • Raleigh WRAL (CBS)
  • Richmond WTVR (CBS)
  • Pueblo KOAA (NBC)
  • San Jose KNTV (NBC)
  • Columbus WCMH (NBC)
  • Dayton WDTN (NBC)
  • Jackson WLBT (NBC)
  • Indianapolis WTHR (NBC)
  • Savannah WTOC (NBC)
  • Sacramento KCRA (NBC)
  • Albany WNYT (NBC)
  • Gatlinburg WBIR (NBC)
  • New York City's The Today Show (NBC)
Stacey In the Forest

Stacey Kozel's Journey — Roanoke County, Virginia — WDBJ7

From afar, Stacey Kozel looks like your average hiker on the Appalachian Trail. But when you get a closer look, you'll know she's different.

"When people come up to me, they don't realize I'm paralyzed," says Kozel. "They think something is wrong with my knees I guess."

A combination of a car accident and Lupus left her paralyzed two years ago.

Bobby Paul, Stacey and Joey Pollak

"I walked into the hospital and quickly lost all mobility except for my left arm," says Kozel.

But she wasn't going to let it stop her from walking all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

"If I don't wear these, I'm in a wheelchair so my wheelchair doesn't quite get over all these boulders," says Kozel.

The 'these' that Kozel is referring to are the braces she wears on her legs. It's called a C-Brace, created by Ottobock. The brace has sensors attached to the bottom of it. It's the part that touches her feet. "[the sensors] Sends it up through this spring here to the computer, which sends the message here and then I use the upper body to basically manipulate it all," explains Kozel. It's complicated, but it gives and pulls tension to let Kozel bend her knees. There are no motors, just movement of her hips and upper body.

So while she walks, Kozel wants to send a message to the insurance companies that give patients a hard time getting these C-Braces approved.

"These aren't just a luxury, it improves the quality of life and can give someone their life back," says Kozel.

With the braces, she's trekking 15 to 20 miles on a good day. The braces are also helping spread another message.

"I just don't want people to give up, whatever they're going through you know never know if you just keep going and the possibilities are endless if you ask me," says Kozel.

Kozel is from Ohio but flew to Georgia at the end of March to start her journey on the Appalachian Trail. She doesn't have a timeline on when she'll reach Maine, but she hopes to finish by the end of the year.

Adjusting the Braces