Copyright 2016 by Lori-Ann Willey
I’ve always been a sap. If someone cries, I’m teary-eyed with them. If someone is in pain, I’m cringing and holding my breath, too. It is just the way I’m wired, I guess. So, when I tuned on my laptop this morning and saw an article that read, Paralyzed Woman Hikes Appalachian Trail, I gasped in disbelief. I wondered the validity of the story, but nonetheless, I found myself sitting in front of my laptop with the story opened for reading. I’m such a sap for such inspirational, against all odds kind of stories.
My first question, other than wondering if the story was real or not, were questions like: How can she do that? She must have human aides helping her? Does she carry her own pack? How paralyzed is paralyzed? Those questions still go unanswered, but I figured if I followed her journey, I’d have my answers.
Thankfully, I reminded myself that paralyzed is not the same as being a paraplegic. A paraplegic is what Paul is. Paraplegia is the loss of muscle function in the lower half of the body, including both legs. Paralyzed is partly or whole incapable of movement. Once I got that sorted out inside my head, I had a better “visual”, so to speak, but that didn’t matter. I was, and still am, very impressed with the woman I am about to introduce.
Ohio resident, Stacy Kozel is not only the subject of this entry, but she is A Wicked Impressive Woman, too! Two years ago, Lupus left Ms. Kozel paralyzed from the waist down. Despite no feelings in her legs, in 2014, with braces attached, she navigated Mt. Katahdin! That, is an impressive accomplishment! Now, with new style braces, she is hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. If you don’t already know, the trail starts in the state of Georgia and ends upon our beloved Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The same mountain that I photograph almost daily.
“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.” - Stacy Kozel
Reading those words sank my heart. I could relate in an able-bodied kind of way, and Paul can relate in a disabled-body kind of way. Paul is in a wheelchair, and he has Lupus, too. Thankfully, his lupus is in remission, but all his other medical issues are not. His daily life is a struggle with chronic symptoms. My daily struggle is watching him suffer with it all. Like always, instantly, my “Mommy Nurture Mode” kicked in while reading her story.
Little does Stacy admit in the article; her story brings more awareness than of those braces that she wears. Her story is one of determination, self-fulfillment, encouragement, stamina, and inspiration to name just a few words of awe off the top of my head. Her story triggers a wide array of emotions within me, too. I’ve seen the struggle in Paul and automatically felt her struggle. Empathy is both a blessing and a curse for me.
After reading through the article (Linked below), I felt the need to make sure you all know her story. Stacy is a perfect example of all that I “preach” to many. Life is filled with obstacles, but if we dig deep enough, hard enough, and for long enough, we can find a way to overcome, or at least, make the best of any situation. It may not be in a traditional manner, but does that matter? No. No matter the ability, or disability, with a determined mindset, you’ll be surprised just how much is possible in any given situation.
Like us, Stacy posts her story publicly. I can’t speak for her, but our story is an “open book”, so to speak. One phrase we’ve used many times is, if we can do it, so can you. Our struggles with Paul’s health and living off the grid make us stronger in a lot of ways. Some of you may think we are bonkers, but I, for one, understand Ms. Kozel’s mindset and I applaud it greatly! Her story, like so many, touched this sappy heart of mine. I feel it would be wrong of me to keep it to myself and not share it with you. Though her Appalachian journey will officially end at the summit of Mt. Katahdin, her overall journey is just getting started, and I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we read her name!