Henryville mother making remarkable recovery
It began as a story of incredible survival, but now it's about one woman's incredible recovery and determination.
Stephanie Decker is the Clark County, Indiana mother who, earlier this month, lay over her young kids to protect them during a tornado.
Her children survived without a scratch but she was severely injured, losing parts of both legs. Now, she says she's doing great.
Stephanie Decker is learning a new way to manage life's everyday tasks and building up her strength for her physical challenges.
Decker says her fierce determination comes from a great gift: a second chance.
"I have another shot at life and I don't want to blow that. I want that. I am going to make the best of it, whether I have legs or not, that's not important to me. A lot worse things could have happened to me in that storm that day, and they didn't and I am thankful for that," said Decker.
The tornado reached 175-mph winds and as it neared her home, Decker fled to the basement with her kids: eight-year-old Dominic and five-year-old Reese. She wrapped them in a blanket and laid on top of them.
The storm demolished their home. The children miraculously survived, but Decker was badly injured. Just days later, from her hospital bed, she told Matt Lauer on The Today Show that she was no hero.
"It was instincts and it was protecting my children. It is, you know, there's; you have three children and you understand. There's nothing you won't do for them. And you will - and you get a - you know, a mama bear out there and they're vicious, you know, they're going to do what they have to do. So I honestly feel like it is just me protecting them," she said.
Decker had seven broken ribs and both legs were partially amputated - her right leg, six inches below her knee. Her left leg, just above her knee.
"It's not a negative part of my life. I don't look at it that way. I just look at it as a part of my life and how I choose to make it a positive, how I to choose to live my life is all up to me," she said, explaining her philosophy.
Last week she moved into the southern Indiana rehab hospital where she spends three hours each day in intense physical and occupational therapy.
"She's an excellent patient. She is very motivated. She was in excellent shape before and she is well ahead of the curve, I would say, compared to what you would typically see," said Jennifer Estes, physical therapist.
Decker says her greatest motivation is her desire to get back home to enjoy the simple things in life.
"I want to help pack lunches, do backpacks and read stories at night. All those little things that we did every night that we never really thought about. When we all sat and had dinner together and talked about what happened at school. Did you enjoy art class? Did you enjoy music class? I don't get to do those things," she said.
Decker's husband Joe says he recognizes his wife's strength, and that he has a plan of his own.
"My goal is to get her to a baseball game. She loves being at the baseball park and so that's my thing. Get her home first and as soon as she can get out and see Dominic and Reese play, the better off we'll be," he said.
Decker says she's thankful for support from family and friends, but humbled too, by the kindness of strangers.
On the Todaymoms blog she shares her recovery, writing:
"I smell everything, I feel everything, and look at everything. Birds are chirping, lizards are running across the sidewalk, leaves are blowing in the wind. I know my therapists are just thinking of my therapy...but all I can think of is how the warm air feels on my skin and how I never want to take that feeling for granted."
"I have woken up from sleeping at night or napping and said is it real? Did this really happen? And I look down and that's the trigger; okay, well it has. And that's okay. The good news is I am waking up, I am alive. It may not be what I wanted, but I have my life back and that's all that really matters," she said.
Her doctors say Decker is making such excellent progress that she may be able to go home as early as Monday. She still needs an additional surgery, a skin graft to help close the wound above her knee and then she can then get fitted for her prostheses.