Paralyzed woman hikes Appalachian Trail

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THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL -- Hiking the Appalachian Trail can be difficult under the best circumstances. But given Stacey Kozel's circumstances, the journey from Georgia to Maine seemed like it would be impossible.

The Ohio woman is paralyzed from the waist down having lost feeling in her legs two years ago due to Lupus.

"Lupus doesn't always affect the central nervous system, but in my case, since it was so high in the spinal cord, that affected my lungs, my breathing," she said. "I couldn't move at all."

While in the hospital, Kozel laid the groundwork for the hike.

"I'll never forget those days. I'll never forget looking out my hospital room. All of the days I've been there. I spent a lot of time in there wanting to get outdoors," she said.

With the help of rehab and special braces, Kozel is now realizing that goal.

While the hike can be slow going for her, she said she was encouraged by those she met on the trail and through social media.

"It has become bigger than me and I definitely will make sure I make it, if not for me, then for everyone who has been supporting me and encouraging me and telling me their stories," she told WVLT.

Kozel is currently hiking the Virginia portion of the trail. Click here to follow her journey on Facebook.

"My goal is to bring awareness to these braces and hopefully get more people out of wheelchairs and out exploring the world," she wrote. "When insurance companies deny people due to 'it is not necessary,' I hope my story will prove the opposite. I hope to see everyone out there on the trail!"

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