41 year-old Stacey Kozel of Medina, Ohio is not your typical Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.
That’s because she is attempting to hike America’s favorite footpath without the full use of her legs.
At the age of 19 Kozel was diagnosed with Lupus stemming from a previous car accident. She’s been paralyzed from the chest down ever since.
But now, thanks to the wonders of modern technology and some inspiring determination, Stacey is in the midst of fulfilling her longtime dream of hiking the 2,000 plus mile Appalachian Trail.
Her hike is being made possible by a set of high tech knee braces that cost $75,000 a piece. The braces contain foot sensors that tell a built in computer how much tension Kozel will need at the knees for each step she takes.
She hopes that her hike will raise awareness about the life changing braces and make them more available to paralysis victims like herself.
“My goal is to bring awareness to these braces so people know they exist and hopefully it gives more people the ability to get out of their wheelchairs and out exploring the world,” Stacey wrote in an article published on AppalachianTrials.com.
“There are people that qualify for these braces that either do not know they exist or it gets stopped with an insurance denial. I hope WHEN I make it back to Mt. Katahdin on my thru hike, insurance companies will have a much tougher time telling others that the braces are ‘not necessary.'”
At the moment Stacey is somewhere in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia approximately three months into her epic journey. Her spirits are said to be high as she attempts to make Appalachian Trail history.
Keep up with Stacey’s progress here.