- Stacey Kozel was diagnosed with lupus at 19 and has lost muscle strength since
- Now paralyzed, she is determined to travel the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail
That hasn't stopped Stacey Kozel. Her paralyzed body hasn't stopped her, either.
The 41-year-old Ohio resident had always been an athlete who loved the outdoors and fresh air. She was always active until lupus stole her muscles and strength, bit by bit.
The autoimmune disease causes the immune system to attack different body parts, including internal organs. People with lupus experience it differently. For Kozel, the disorder targets her central nervous system. Although her heart and lungs function normally, the weakening of her muscles makes it hard for her to breathe. Since her diagnosis at 19, she has frequently had to go to the hospital for treatment whenever she got a "flare-up."
"It never feels good. You don't feel right. A lot of pain. A lot of weakness. You're exhausted just by doing daily activities," said Kozel. It would take her months to recover and rebuild muscles from a lupus attack that lasted for a few weeks.