Kozel is a 41-year-old hiker who is currently working her way through
the Appalachian Trail. It's a grueling slog—only 1 in 4 hikers will
actually complete this hike. Kozel is averaging 20 miles a day, and
she's doing it all while being paralyzed from the waist down.
Kozel, who suffers from Lupus, lost the use of her legs in March 2014.
Now, fitted with a system called C-Brace, a "high-tech leg brace"
manufactured by Ottobock, she's hiking to prove to insurance companies that these braces are worth the cost.
In 2015, Kozel hiked Mt. Katahdin in Maine with a set of braces that
locked her knees in place, forcing her legs straight. She had to use a
lot of upper-body strength and her hips to move, which she says caused
her intense back pain. The computer-controlled C-Brace allows a person's
knees to bend.
It measures the user's walking abilities in real-time,
changing speeds and allowing a person to place weight on the bent knee,
creating a more natural and balanced walking pattern. These tech-savvy
braces come at a high price, though: $75,000 each.
Kozel has spent the last three months climbing mountains along the
trail and forging on through rough weather conditions. It's tricky,
though, and not just because she's learning a new way to walk.
C-Braces need to be charged and cannot get wet. This caused some
daunting nights for Kozel, who had to stay holed up in her tent for 2
days straight, waiting for the rain to pass, and hoping she could make
it to the next rest stop before the batteries gave out.
Even with the challenges Kozel has faced, these advanced braces have
gotten her out of a wheelchair and up the mountain. She's expecting to
complete her quest around July 4, with hopes that the insurance
companies have taken notice and will get more paralyzed people back on
Paralyzed Woman Is Hiking the Appalachian Trail Thanks to These Smart Leg Braces