Stacey Kozel was always an athlete and never had reason to doubt that her body would do anything she asked of it. Then, in 2014, a bout with Lupus left her paralyzed from the waist down. When her insurance company denied her the braces needed to walk, she embarked on a journey to regain her mobility. During a months-long battle against insurance regulations, and after losing appeal after appeal, Stacey persevered and began physical therapy.
Two years later, she decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. Her motivation was to celebrate her ability to move, and to take advantage of every second of it, knowing that another resurgence of the disease could take even more of her ability to move away. She did hike the Appalachian Trail in 2016, and has spent the bulk of 2017 hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail. Stacey says on her Facebook page that she is not comfortable talking about herself, or her journey. However, her sacrifice and perseverance inspired people wherever she went. In the last few years, her fame has spread and now when people ask me, , "Hey...did you see that woman on the Today Show that is hiking the A.T.? She is paralyzed!!!" I just smile and say, not only have I heard of her, but she is coming to our Summit. Here is her story in her own words:
"I have always wanted to hike the AT but after becoming paralyzed in March 2014 I wasn't sure I would get the chance. Thanks to many people and a special high teck brace, I will be setting out to attempt the AT this year. I hiked Mt. Katahdin in October 2015 with bracs that locked my knees and were much more difficult to maneuver. I can't wait to see what I can do in my new braces. My goal is to bring awareness to these braces and hopefully get more people out of wheelchairs and have the ability to be out exploring the world. When insurance companies deny people due to 'it's not necessary,' I hope my story will prove the opposite. I hope to see everyone on the trail!"