US tornado: Woman loses legs saving kids

2012-03-06 11:03

Indianapolis - A woman who saved her two children by binding them together with a blanket and shielding them with her body as a tornado ripped apart their house lost parts of both her legs, which were crushed by the falling debris, her husband says.

Stephanie Decker, a 36-year-old sleep specialist, lost one leg above the knee and the other above the ankle, her husband said on Monday. She was in serious but stable condition at a Kentucky hospital.

The couple's 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter survived Friday's storm unscathed.

"I told her, 'They're here because of you'," Joe Decker said by telephone from the University of Louisville Hospital. "I let her know that nothing else matters. I said, 'You're going to be here for your kids, and you get to see them grow up.'"

Decker, aged 42, was at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg, where he teaches algebra, when the tornado hit.

With storms expected, the school had been locked down, and he was debating whether to try to race home. Decker exchanged a series of texts with his wife, urging her to get herself and their children into the basement of their sprawling, three-storey brick and stone home in Marysville, Indiana.

Wedged in

"Then she sent me a text saying the whole house was shaking, and I texted her back and asked her if everything was OK," he said. "I asked her about six or seven times and got no response. That kind of freaked me out."

He said his wife told him later that she was in their walk-out basement, which had French doors leading outside and a wall of windows, when she saw the tornado approaching, moving across the family's six-hectare plot.

Stephanie Decker had already tied a blanket around both children and to herself, and she threw herself on top of the children.

"She said she felt the whole house start to go, and then she felt like it moved them about before it kind of wedged her in there, but she was able to keep the kids from moving away," Decker said.

When the tornado passed, Stephanie Decker called to the children. Reese, aged 5, answered immediately, but Dominic, aged 8, hesitated before saying he was OK. Decker said his son told him he couldn't hear his mother because of the roar of the storm.

Dominic, however, soon ran across the street to seek help from neighbours, who had taken refuge in a storm cellar, Decker said. One neighbour, realising the severity of Stephanie's injuries, ran for help and found a deputy sheriff travelling on a four-wheeler about 400m away.

House gone

The deputy applied tourniquets to Stephanie Decker's legs to halt her blood loss.

She has been scheduled to undergo surgery on her legs again on Thursday, hospital spokesperson Holly Hinson said.

"The house is gone. It's pretty amazing that she's alive," Hinson said.

With trees blocking the road after the storm, Decker said he ran part of the way home before two men gave him a ride. He found his house gone and his children with a family friend.

His wife had been taken to a hospital 16km away, and the men drove him there, allowing him to see Stephanie briefly before she was airlifted to the Louisville hospital.

"I was afraid I might never see her again," Decker said.

  • Vernon - 2012-03-06 11:28

    hairaising stuff,she deserves a medal

      Rudie - 2012-03-06 11:36

      She deserves a Bells. Well done mam.

      Janice - 2012-03-06 13:07

      What an absolute heart wrenching story...MOM of the decade award to you Lady.

  • kerrimg - 2012-03-06 11:42

    wow powers of being a mother.

  • Prudence Pelembe - 2012-03-06 11:57

    Never under-estimate a MOTHER'S LOVE for her kids, she will move a mountain for her kids if that is what it takes! Wow I don't even have kids

  • Kelly - 2012-03-06 11:58

    I would loose all 4 limbs to save my children!!! Well done Stephanie, you are so very brave.

  • veelee57 - 2012-03-06 12:00

    Gosh!! what a brave and unselfish woman. God Bless her and heal her wounds quickly.

  • kitneyi - 2012-03-06 12:06

    AMAZING - The love of a parent!

  • Sue - 2012-03-06 12:13

    Now thats what a mother is - prepared to sacrifice herself for her children. Brought tears to my eyes. Get well soon you are a survivor.

  • meredith.r.pollock - 2012-03-06 12:21

    Now that is a mother worthy of the title of mom... So sad that it has cost her, her legs.. She deserves more than a medal.. Well Done Stephanie you are a true hero...

  • debbie.gunning1 - 2012-03-06 12:27

    Well done Stephanie - my thoughts are with you and your family today xx

  • Lisa - 2012-03-06 12:27

    Thank God for the happy ending! hope the mom recovers soon!! x

  • Peter-Peter - 2012-03-06 12:31

    Thats so brave! They say you cant outrun a tornado...but my chicken legs would have proven that theory wrong

  • Hoosen Essa - 2012-03-06 13:20

    a mothers love. this is the reason every child should put their mothers on a pedestil. no1 would protect u, the way a mother would.

  • jkarsen - 2012-03-06 15:40

    Thank God for stories like these!

  • Wilma - 2012-03-06 20:36

    It's what Mom's do isn't it.

      Tebogo - 2012-04-04 01:36

      Not all mothers sacrifice themselves for their kids. She is a real mother.

  • Hazel - 2012-04-04 07:54

    shame heart goes out to this family....

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