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Indiana Tornado: Stephanie Decker Loses Legs Saving Kids From Tornado

By RICK CALLAHAN   03/ 6/12 02:07 AM ET  AP

INDIANAPOLIS -- An Indiana 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 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, 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-story brick and stone home in Marysville, Ind.

"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 15-acre 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, 5, answered immediately, but Dominic, 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 neighbors, who had taken refuge in a storm cellar, Decker said. One neighbor, realizing the severity of Stephanie's injuries, ran for help and found a deputy sheriff traveling on a four-wheeler about a quarter of a mile away. 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 Thursday, hospital spokeswoman 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 10 miles 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.

Photos of the destruction:
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  • Shopping Mall in Harrisburg Before Storms

    Credit: <a href="http://maps.google.com/maps/place?hl=en&safe=off&gs_upl=&ix=seb&ion=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=2005&bih=1232&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=cash+store+harrisburg,+il&fb=1&gl=us&hq=cash+store&hnear=0x8870c38d65eb5a95:0xe842f6ed698c2ce4,Harrisburg,+IL&cid=17029494789117049799&ei=JZ9PT9KiDI7tggeb-KTtDQ&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=photo-link&cd=1&resnum=2&ved=0CBwQnwIoADAB" target="_hplink">Google</a>

  • Shopping Mall In Harrisburg After Storms

    Credit: Caleb Cattivera

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents ride past a tree that was downed by severe storms that destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A stop sign, that was bent over by severe storms, stands on a street corner in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Furniture and walls are what is left of a home the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents gather the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Volunteer fireman Jeff Woodyard recovers golf clubs from his father-in-law's home in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A stuffed toy lies in a ditch the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Luke Russell clears debris from a storm-damaged home, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. A tornado that damaged at least half of the tiny eastern Kansas town of Harveyville on Tuesday night was an EF-2 with wind speeds of 120 to 130 mph, state emergency management officials said Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> An unidentified man enters Riggin's Market and Deli in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The business was closed due to severe storms that destroyed several homes and businesses in town. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> An unidentified man clears storm damage the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A tornado-damaged home sits amid debris along Main Street, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. The small eastern Kansas town of Harveyville took a direct hit from an apparent tornado late Tuesday, injuring at least 11 people and reducing much of the town to ruins. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Volunteers walk past storm damage in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to the small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tammy Woodyard, center, talks to neighbor Grant Hill, right, and his daughter, Talla, about the tornado damage to her father's home behind her, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents walk the streets the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tammy Woodyard, of Harveyville, surveys the wreckage of her father's home the morning after a tornado hit the town, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harveyville, Kan. Her father was unhurt. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents talk in front of a home after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents and volunteers line up for food and drink, the morning after severe storms destroyed several homes and businesses in Harveyville, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Margaret Shimkus, 61, talks with an emergency responder about her condition Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, at her home in Harrisburg, Ill., after an early morning tornado ripped through the town. Shimkus, who took refuge in her bathtub, sustained a minor cut from the early morning storm, but Dorothy Hill, her neighbor in the duplex home, was taken to a hospital with injuries. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, a residential area is heavily damaged in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. A hospital administrator in Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in the storm that swept through the region. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, damage is seen to a strip mall in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. A hospital administrator in Harrisburg says at least three people were killed in the storm that swept through the region. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> In this image made with a cell phone, a residential area is seen severely damaged in Harrisburg, Ill., after a severe storm swept through the area early Wednesday morning, Feb. 29, 2012. At least three people are confirmed dead in Harrisburg, said Harrisburg Medical Center CEO Vince Ashley, and the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured. (AP Photo/The Southern, Paul Newton)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A residential area in Harrisburg, Ill. is damaged after a storm passed, Wednesday , Feb. 29, 2012. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/ Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Keith Hucke, left, and Devyn Byrd, 14, survey the damage sustained to Hucke's house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. Hucke said he was in his bed when the wall right next to him collapsed during the storm. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents take in some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Roy Mauney of Harrisburg, Ill., collects clothes from a dresser in what remains of his parents house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Saline County city. Mauney said his parents survived the storm by taking cover in a bathtub before their house blew off its foundation and across the street. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency crews comb through some of the damage after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Gene Byrd pauses for a moment while he and his son Devyn Byrd, 14, look over some of the damage sustained to a friends house after a severe storm hit in the early morning hours on Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisrbug, Ill. A severe pre-dawn storm pounded portions of southern Illinois on Wednesday. Several deaths have been reported in Harrisburg and left the city's medical center scrambling to treat an influx of injured, the hospital's top administrator said. (AP Photo/The Southern Illinoisan,Paul Newton )

  • <em>From AP:</em> Emergency responders work to clear debris in a neighborhood in Harrisburg, Ill., after an early morning tornado Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. At least six people died in Harrisburg in the pre-dawn tornado. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Paul Johnson with Larry's Electric, works on the electrical system at Harrisburg Medical Center after an early morning tornado damaged the hospital Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. At least six people died in Harrisburg in the pre-dawn tornado. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies on the ground outside Nell Cox's Harrisburg, Ill. home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, where a tornado ripped through earlier in the day. Cox, a cancer survivor who lives alone, awoke during the tornado, shined a flashlight out her window and saw her neighbor, who was ejected from her bed and out a window, lying in a ditch. Cox, who is in her seventies, went outside and brought the woman to safety until emergency services came. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A prosthetic leg found among the debris caused by a tornado that ripped through Harrisburg, Ill. leans against a damaged home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Robert Ray)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Family members and friends try to salvage what they can after a tornado destroyed their neighborhood homes Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> People try to salvage what they can after a tornado destroyed homes in their neighborhood Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Jeff Rann, 29, right, pauses while sifting for possessions in the remains of their parents' duplex trying to salvage what he can after a tornado destroyed their parents home Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Harrisburg, Ill. Their parents were cancer survivors Randy Rann, 65, and Donna Rann. Randy died at the scene and his wife died later at a hospital. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Harrisburg Mayor Eric Gregg talks about the destruction from a tornado as Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn listens during a news conference in Harrisburg, Ill., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. The tornado that blasted Harrisburg in southern Illinois, killing six, was an EF4, the second-highest rating given to twisters based on damage. Scientists said it was 200 yards wide with winds up to 170 mph. (AP Photo/Stephen Lance Dennee)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A utility worker tries to free storm debris suspended in a power line in Branson, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. An apparent tornado hopscotched through the city's main tourist district overnight, causing damage for miles. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Tim Thress, left, of Branson, and Wake Williams of Omaha, Ark., help carry merchandise out of a friend's storm-damaged store in Branson, Mo., Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. Powerful storms that produced reports of multiple tornadoes and killed at least nine people elsewhere in the Midwest tore through the music resort town early this morning, injuring more than three dozen people. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A gas station is damaged and power lines are down in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> A toppled sign lies in a street Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Storm debris is piled near the entrance to the Dick Clark's American Bandstand Theater in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Residents walk amid downed power lines in their neighborhood in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Metal debris is wrapped around trees and windows are shattered at the Ozark Mountain Inn in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies around the Midtown Cafe Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Debris lies around the Legends Theater Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Power lines lie on the ground Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012, in Branson, Mo. A powerful storm system lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson and laying waste to a small town in Kansas.(AP Photo/The News-Leader, Valerie Mosley)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Windows and doors blown out of their frames rest against railings at a hotel in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

  • <em>From AP:</em> Sherry Cousins and her brother Bruce Wallace of Hollister, Mo., sit in the wreckage of their secondhand store in Branson, Mo, Wednesday, Feb. 29, 2012. A powerful storm system that produced multiple reports of tornadoes lashed the Midwest early Wednesday, roughing up the country music resort city of Branson. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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