What does it mean to be strong and fit?

Originally from Venezuela, Mariela Mason always had a love for the outdoors and living an active lifestyle. With her dog Kush by her side, she would walk 10 miles a day, kayak, garden and do yoga. However, after a tragic motorcycle accident on April 13, 2018, Mason lost her left leg. Her world was changed forever, but she’s learned to adapt. Today, Mason thrives on her positivity, faith and her continued love of the outdoors to keep her spirit and body strong and fit.

The day she lost her leg, it was a day like any other. Mason was on her usual commute to work at UF Health Shands. She remembers even waving to her then boyfriend, a school bus driver, as she passed him while driving. At the intersection of Williston and Oak Hammock, a car coming from the opposite direction decided to make a U-turn in front of her. The car came right for her. Mason said she saw the imminent accident happen in slow motion and had to make a quick decision.

“I thought… go A: to the left or B: to the right,” she said. But, there was no room left. Mason tried to slide into the bike lane, but the car was trying to get around the traffic and was moving too fast. “He hit me directly on my leg.”

The collision tragically left Mason an amputee before she could even get off the ground. “When I turned to my left, I saw my leg over there,” she said. “I said ‘God, please, I don’t want to die.’”

Thanks to the swift action of her boyfriend, a former EMT, who came up behind her in the bus, along with her medical team and her faith, Mason is on her way to recovery. During her time in the hospital she would say, “I am not going to be in this bed and feel depressed. God let me live, and I am going to keep going.”

What is she doing now?

Today she is a member of Gator Amp, has been invited to Sports Ability in Tallahassee and has challenged herself physically and mentally to continue to be strong. Her current prosthetic leg allows her to do some activities, but she is awaiting a new one with more movement in the knee. Until then, she challenges herself with walking short distances and kayaking — her true love. Above all, she stays positive, encourages others and gives back.

This year, on the anniversary of her accident, she had the opportunity to go rock climbing. Unafraid, Mason looked at the obstacle and decided to conquer it. She started climbing with her prosthetic leg, pulling herself up, refusing to let anyone help her achieve her goal.

“I turned around and there were a lot of people around and [my] heart feels like wow… I can do it!” Mason said. And she did.

by Nicole Irving | photo by Jimmy Ho Photography