Patient Journeys in Youngstown, OH

Paralyzed Hiker, Stacey Kozel, Walks the Appalachian Trail to Spread a Positive Message

We invite you to read the article below from WDBJ7, Roanoke County, Virginia. It is a follow-up with our patient Stacey Kozel. Thank you, Amanda Kenney of WDBJ7 for your wonderful interview with Stacey Kozel! Her story has been aired coast to coast on dozens of networks and shows, including:

Stacey Kozel’s Journey — Roanoke County, Virginia — WDBJ7

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From afar, Stacey Kozel looks like your average hiker on the Appalachian Trail. But when you get a closer look, you’ll know she’s different.

“When people come up to me, they don’t realize I’m paralyzed,” says Kozel. “They think something is wrong with my knees I guess.”

A combination of a car accident and Lupus left her paralyzed two years ago.

standing at end of dock

“I walked into the hospital and quickly lost all mobility except for my left arm,” says Kozel.

But she wasn’t going to let it stop her from walking all 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

“If I don’t wear these, I’m in a wheelchair so my wheelchair doesn’t quite get over all these boulders,” says Kozel.

The ‘these’ that Kozel is referring to are the braces she wears on her legs. It’s called a C-Brace, created by Ottobock. The brace has sensors attached to the bottom of it. It’s the part that touches her feet. “[the sensors] Sends it up through this spring here to the computer, which sends the message here and then I use the upper body to basically manipulate it all,” explains Kozel. It’s complicated, but it gives and pulls tension to let Kozel bend her knees. There are no motors, just movement of her hips and upper body.

So while she walks, Kozel wants to send a message to the insurance companies that give patients a hard time getting these C-Braces approved.

putting on prosthetic

“These aren’t just a luxury, it improves the quality of life and can give someone their life back,” says Kozel.

With the braces, she’s trekking 15 to 20 miles on a good day. The braces are also helping spread another message.

“I just don’t want people to give up, whatever they’re going through you know never know if you just keep going and the possibilities are endless if you ask me,” says Kozel.

Kozel is from Ohio but flew to Georgia at the end of March to start her journey on the Appalachian Trail. She doesn’t have a timeline on when she’ll reach Maine, but she hopes to finish by the end of the year.

Darrius Simmons’s Journey

Darrius Simmons Playing Piano

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Seventeen year old Darrius Simmons has been playing piano since he was first introduced to it in an elementary school music class in his hometown of Warren, OH. Although he has never had any formal training, he now plays in his high school jazz band, for local events, and has even played in Carnegie Hall along side South Korean pianist Yiruma.

Due to a genetic birth defect, Darrius was born with just three fingers on his right hand, and one on his left. He also had to have both legs amputated when he was a toddler, so he uses two prosthetics to walk and work the piano’s pedals.

 Despite the fact that he only has three fingers on his right hand and one on his left, Darrius continues to play and write his own piano music.

Darrius has now had a taste of internet success as well. After he uploaded his original composition, “Dreams Are Forever,” to his Facebook page, the video went viral with over four million views in the first few days online.”

“I’m glad I inspire people. That’s all I ever really wanted to do, just share my great music with everybody, and just put a smile on their faces,” – Darrius Simmons

Barry Schroeder & the US Paralympic Bobsleigh Team

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barry schroederWestern Reserve O&P is proud to sponsor Barry Schroder of the United States Paralympic Bobsleigh Team. He’s chosen to share his journey with everyone on our website. We proudly sponsored his participation in the 2015 Tough Mudder Event in Mid-Ohio, and discovered that he is, indeed, a force to be recognized. His strength of spirit helps us, and many others, to maintain our own strength in everyday life.

About Barry

Barry is passionate about many things. He is a husband, father, paramedic, volunteer firefighter and now, a bobsleigh pilot! In 2015, he was asked to join the U.S. Para Olympics Bobsleigh team.

He maintains a level of courage, strength, and determination that many may not be able to imagine in one’s life. A vehicle hit Barry, who was riding his motorcycle in a scholarship fund run. He lost his leg as a result of the accident. This was just before his wife gave birth to their second daughter. Additionally, he had just begun his new job and his insurance had not kicked in yet.

Setting his sights on yet another mission of hard work paired with determination, Barry began to work out for team USA. Although he had no previous experience piloting a bobsleigh, he discovered he did as well as seasoned pilots with 10 years of experience. He has successfully participated and finished in USPO bobsleigh events in Calgary and Utah since 2015. His ultimate goal is to participate in the 2022 games.

Barry and his family could use some funding for continuing in events of the U.S. Paralympic Bobsleigh Team. You can donate on CrowdRise, where you can add your support to Barry’s financial aid, allowing him to continue with the USPO. He is certainly a special man to support.


In His Own Words

“On September 16, 2012, I went from being your average normal everyday man to simply awesome. You see, my life changed in an instant when I was run over on my motorcycle, leaving me without part of my leg. My foot was amputated instantly!

I faced some amazing challenges, and it wasn’t always easy. Actually, nothing about it was easy. I fell occasionally, cried often, but always pushed forward. Within seven months I had my life back. I returned to work as a full-time paramedic and was even riding again.

During these seven months I found a passion for fitness. I began to eat better and train often in the gym. This is when I realized I had something special. I realized I had the ability to make a difference and to motivate others — others who may have a similar obstacle in life, or as I refer to it, an opportunity.

In 2015 I was named to the first ever United States Paralympic Bobsleigh and Skeleton team. This ‘opportunity’ allowed me to compete against world class athletes from all over the world. I finished my first season ranked fifth in the United States, competing against some of the greatest adaptive athletes from all over the globe. My goal is to compete in the Paralympic Games in 2022.”

— Barry Schroeder


Dawna M.

“I am a below the knee double amputee losing my right leg in November of 2005 and my left leg in January of 2008. Though I was referred to another company for my prosthetic needs, I chose Western Reserve Prosthetics & Orthotics and Rick Grope because he was willing to come to my home and work with me.

Rick is also an amputee and could easily identify with my situation. The quality of care and attention I received during my first prosthesis made the decision to go with Western Reserve a “no brainer” for the second one. I highly recommend Rick Grope and W.R.P.O. to anyone who wears a prosthesis and wants to lead a normal and active life.”

Patient Since 2005

William H.

“In January of this year I had to have an amputation, and while recovering at local nursing home I, came in contact with Joey, who work for Western Reserve. One of the benefits i love about western reserve is the fact that they come to you. Unlike most of the other company, it is a pleasure to not have to travel to their office to get adjustment, and products.”

Patient Since 2007

Tom M.

“For years I have been walking around in pain with a prosthesis that didn’t fit right. This is the first time in 3 years that I am pain-free and walking well.

I live in PA and we were in the Youngstown area, I called Western Reserve Prosthetics to see if I could get an appointment. I was seen and treated within 2 hours. Service is important and quality matters. I get all that and more from Western Reserve Prosthetics. I’m proud to say they are my new prosthetic provider.”

Patient Since 2008

Amanda F.

“I was 12 years old when I lost my leg due to bone cancer. My physical therapist recommended Rick Grope. I felt relaxed with Rick from the beginning. Largely due to the way he presented himself and he was an amputee himself.

As a Registered Nurse, quality of care and being sensitive to a patient’s situation is most important to me. He treated me in my home for several years because it was more convenient for me and my family. Thanks to Rick I am leading an active and normal life. I am doing everything I did, and more before I was sick.”

Patient Since 1997