Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Recreating Oneself Via Recreation - Posie's Story

I met Posie Mansfield at our horseback riding program last month and was amazed by her end-of-the-summer adventures. Within the week she had been kayaking, surfing and horseback riding, and was aglow with stories of her recent outings. Embracing recreation has clearly helped her transform her life in a positive direction after suffering two major losses. I was delighted when she agreed to share her story and I hope she will inspire others to find new ways to enjoy life. Thanks for your Guest Post Posie and for all you do to help others find their way!

In late December of 2010, I developed a serious and near-fatal staph infection in my left knee, the same knee that had a total knee replacement in May of that same year. My doctor tried IV antibiotics, but there came a time when it became a choice between losing my life or losing my leg. There really wasn't much of a choice. My children and I met with my surgeon, and on January 5, 2011, they amputated my left leg above the knee. Just a month earlier, in late November, my husband of 46 years died suddenly and tragically from a massive heart attack. I thought my life was over. Losing him left me with my heart broken and my life forever changed.

Instead of seeing the loss of my leg as another tragedy, I decided to see it as an opportunity, a chance to start a new chapter, to rewrite my future and travel a new journey. Never having chosen this path or surely never expecting it, I had to make a decision to do one of two things. I could either retreat into myself, sit alone for the rest of my life, or pull myself up, head held high looking ahead, not back, and push myself to take on my life's challenges with as much strength, dignity and grace that I could muster. Quitting was never an option.

Since losing my leg, I am now stronger, healthier and more active physically than I ever dreamed I could or would be. I miss my husband every day, but I have channeled that emotion by trying new adventures to honor his memory, taking on challenges like sailing, kayaking, rock wall climbing, skiing, horseback riding, skydiving and surfing. I have discovered a whole new world of adventures available to me through many organizations like Spaulding Rehab, DCR, Waypoint Adventures, New England Disabled Sports and more.

Last February, I led a group of amputees up to Loon Mountain in New Hampshire, where we were given the opportunity to ski on one ski, sit down while going downhill, or ski and snowboard wearing a prosthesis for those who were below the knee amputees. I tried tri skis - one ski with two outriggers to help me balance. I had skied for many years as a member of the National Ski Patrol with my husband, so this was a particularly big triumph. Not only did I have past memories to comfort me, I was now making new ones to cherish forever. I am going back this winter to ski again.

I went kayaking a few weeks ago through a program offered through Spaulding Rehab. It was a beautiful summer day in Topsfield, Massachusetts. I took my leg off and slipped into a sea kayak and paddled with a group down the Ipswich River for a two hour trip. I had previously paddled out at Walden Pond in Concord with the DCR Universal Access Program last summer, then again this year on the Charles River. Going kayaking is relaxing and has given me a chance to get back out on the water where I had spent many years growing up.

Through New England Disabled Sports and the Wounded Warrior Project, I was able to go surfing recently at Hampton Beach, NH when civilians were allowed to join veterans for a day of fun and excitement. Feeling the sea spray in my face was refreshing and exciting. Surfers and surf shops and dozens of volunteers all came together to make this a memorable day. What a great day of fun and making new memories!

Through DCR I have found many opportunities to have fun, recently going horseback riding at Bradley Palmer State Park in Topsfield. I wore my prosthesis and was able to mount and dismount easily. Although I would have liked to have been able to ride without a lead rein, I could understand the liability factor that made this necessary for the program. I grew up with horses, had my first pony at the age of 6, and always had a horse until I left home for college. As an experienced rider it was a bit tame for me, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. The staff were helpful and I was reminded of my years on my farm and a summer spent out west on ranches in Montana and Wyoming.

I found a pal to join me in taking on these adventures, another above-the-knee amputee. Together we search for websites and notices about activities to participate in. We are finding that there are more resources available now than ever before. These organizations keep the costs low so that they are accessible to just about everyone who wants to participate. My friend and I recently went out to Orange, MA, to go skydiving. At 13,000 feet, jumping tandem with an experienced instructor, I soared like an eagle, feeling free and light. After almost a minute of freefall, I pulled the ripcord and we floated to the ground. We are planning to go back this fall.
In all my adventures, my family has been right there by my side cheering me on. They know the heartache and grief that I have experienced, and while challenging myself can't bring my husband back, they understand that it serves to heal my heart. My kids know their Dad always pushed me to succeed, and that in accomplishing success I am honoring his memory in a very real way. They are happy for me as my life unfolds. My brother and sisters encourage me to keep my energy directed at the future. Without family I wouldn't have such a wonderful support system.

I lead an amputee support group out of Cornell Orthotics and Prosthetics in Beverly, MA, where I got my prosthesis. It has grown from 3 people last November to more than 30 amputees today. We meet monthly and I am constantly on the phone, visiting rehab centers, homes and hospitals, and looking for speakers. This is a wonderful opportunity to give something back and share my blessings. I am in charge of creating my own path, my own memories, my own destiny. I couldn't feel more blessed!

Posie can be reached at

1 comment:

Maheen said...

Posie, thank you for sharing your story! You reminded me of Prof. Pausch whose attitude towards life is just as inspiring. In his book, The Last Lecture, he wrote, "It's not how hard you hit. It's how hard you get hit and keep moving forward." Thank you for all that you do to help and inspire people.