Stephanie Decker holds hands with her son Dominic, 8, while her daughter Reese, 5 looks on as they take questions from the media after her release from Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital in New Albany on Monday afternoon. Both of Decker's legs had to be partially amputated after she was injured by debris while protecting her children in the basement of their home when the March 2 tornadoes hit the Henryville area.

Staff photo by Christopher Fryer
CNHI News Service

After losing her legs in a tornado, saving her children, and going through rigorous physical therapy, Stephanie Decker doesn't plan to relax now that she's back home.

Instead, she took up a challenge from her son, Dominic, to a game of hoops.

“Even in this wheelchair, I can kick your butt,” she boasted.

Decker had parts of both legs amputated as a result of injuries suffered in a series of March 2 tornadoes that nearly destroyed her hometown of Henryville, Ind. Hunkered down in the basement after getting her kids out of school early, she threw herself on top of them as a twister ripped through her home.

Now, with both children safe and pushing herself through recovery therapy, Stephanie made her way to a new family home here after starting rehab only 11 days ago.

“I worked really hard, I wanted to get out of there,” Stephanie Decker, 36, said. “I had already been two weeks in the hospital and that’s just not me.”

Amanda Livers, Decker’s occupational therapist, said her regimen consisted of three hours of therapy for five days. She said her recovery was fast.

“She was definitely above what we’d expect for someone that’s a bilateral amputee,” Livers said. “She can cook, she made her son macaroni and cheese one day. She’s totally independent at wheelchair level.”

Jennifer Estes, Decker’s physical therapist, said the support from her family and the desire to get back to her children helped her make unusual progress.

“She had great family and community support, which really makes a difference,” Estes said.

Her family home in Henryville was destroyed by the tornadoes. So friends are helping get her rental home in New Albany wheelchair accessible.

Decker's recovery is far from finished. She will soon meet with doctors at University Hospital in Louisville to talk about completing skin grafts on her legs. Then, she said, discussions can begin about prosthetic devices. Doctors have told her that in three months, she could start walking again.

Decker said she’s anxious about walking but even more thankful she’ll be able to raise her children, watch them grow up and have kids of their own.

“The one thing I’m ready to do is play with these two crazy kids,” she said. “The first thing I’m going to do is what they want to do.”


Details for this story were provided by Jerod Clapp, a reporter for the Jeffersonville, Ind., News and Tribune.

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