Paralysed woman takes on Appalachian Trail

  • 31/08/2016
Paralysed woman takes on Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail stretches 3500 kilometres through 14 states of the US - from Georgia to Maine.

Stacey Kozel began hiking it in March. She's now more than halfway, facing a challenging journey to the finish line.

Ms Kozel, 41, is paralysed. Lupus, an autoimmune disease, attacked her spinal cord three years ago and left her unable to move her legs.

"I don't feel anything in my legs."

Her legs don't work, but her hips do. She swings them out and back, which is when cutting-edge electronic braces take over.

"There are sensors in the bottom of my foot. The sensors go up a spring in the back, and tells this computer, the microprocessor, that I need full tension at my knees so they don't collapse."

The braces aren't cheap - $75,000 each. Hiking the Appalachian Trail is a walk in the park compared to the fight she had with her insurance.

"My orthotist said 12 times [insurance was denied]," she says. "I'll never give in for that. I thought, you know, if I could do this the next person might not have as much trouble getting them approved."

Through all her months of rehab, learning how to walk in the braces, Ms Kozel was motivated by inspiring others in the process.

"Climbing up the mountain, it's tough. But once you get to the top, there is always these great views that make it all worth it. I think anything's possible. I think the possibilities are endless, actually. That's what I always say."

Ms Kozel can certainly talk the talk.  But far more impressive is watching her walk the walk.

CBS News