Earlier this month, I discussed the progress being made in prosthetics and yesterday our class briefly looked over a relevant multimedia feature in The Boston Globe. Not only is this feature journalistically impressive with its photography, writing, and graphics, but it is also an incredible example of life-changing technology and medicine.
Stacey Kozel, better known as “Iron Will,” was diagnosed with lupus when she was 19-years-old. The autoimmune disease took away her ability to walk as well as some mobility in her arms and hands. But with the help of her C-Braces, Kozel went after her goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The custom electronic leg brace is a computer controlled knee ankle foot orthosis (KAFO). It was designed to improve “lower-limb mobility issues” for people who suffer from problems such as partial paralysis and spinal cord injuries. Unlike wheelchairs and locked knee braces, the C-Braces allow people to continue their daily lives fairly normally.
This is not to say that Kozel smoothly sailed through her hikes. There were bumps along the way, which set her back and often even made her consider returning home. During one of her hikes, her brace constantly malfunctioned and eventually lost its charge. She trekked on for hours with a locked brace and swollen legs. That day she didn’t complete her hike, but she returned, ambitious as ever to finish what she had started.
There isn’t a perfect solution for people in Kozel’s position and there may never be. We can’t say for sure. But without the C-Brace, Kozel wouldn’t have been able to spend her time the way she wanted. Her fellow hikers would have never named her “Iron Will” for her relentless efforts and refusal to give up.
Kozel shared her optimism with The Boston Globe:
“I try not to think about it, but it’s always in the back of my head. That’s why it’s important to enjoy life, laugh, and get outside everyday.”