I Lost My Legs, But I Learned What I Wanted to Do With My Life

12/08/2014 03:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

On March 2, 2012, an F4 tornado ripped through my home in Southern Indiana -- an event that would change my life forever. As a mother of 2, I did what any responsible parent would have done and took shelter in our basement to wait out the storm. Little did I know that this was no ordinary storm, but a super cell F4 tornado and it was heading right for our house.

The house was annihilated, destroyed. Not one piece of plywood was left to the foundation. It's like a movie that plays over and over in my head and I can see the storm heading for our house. I can pinpoint the EXACT moment when I knew we were going to die as the basement began to crumble around us. I grabbed a comforter, wrapped my two children in a blanket, told them I loved them and to GET DOWN. I fully expected to die, but, miraculously, we all survived. All things considered, my children were ok. However I was not so lucky.

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While shielding my children from the storm, a steel beam was falling and I had to make a split decision. Should I let go of my kids to move the debris off of my falling body or should I just let the beam fall and continue protecting my children? The answer was simple. I had to save my children, or at least die trying. That beam ended up severing both of my legs, but it also saved my life by preventing me from bleeding out before help could arrive.

Through sheer determination, a will to live and desire to see my children grow up, get married and go to college I FOUGHT. I fought like had never fought before in my life. You see, I was, and am, an athlete and a lifetime of athletics taught me about perseverance and fighting through the pain to get what you are looking for. The pain of my injuries was excruciating to the point that I just wanted to go to sleep and make all the pain go away. But I didn't. Instead of closing my eyes, I looked up at the sky and asked for help. I said, "If anyone is up there, I need you. I am close to the brink and I have so much to live for in my life. I know you are trying to tell me something I know there is a REAL purpose for my life. Just let me live and I will find out what that purpose is."

And I lived. I survived the hardest 2.5 hour fight of my life. Now it was time to figure out my purpose. Lucky to be alive and grateful my family was spared, I decided I was going to use my second chance to give back. Thus, the Stephanie Decker Foundation was born.

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The whole nation seemed to be drawn to my story of saving Dominic (8) and Reese (5) and I realized I had been given a platform and a voice. Yes, I survived a horrific experience and suffered a life changing injury, but I also knew I wasn't the only person out there that needed help. As an athlete with two children involved in sports, I thought of amputee children who may not have the ability to participate and knew I wanted to help them.

In this era of technology, it is amazing to see what men, women and children can do with prosthetics. I was blown away. We started looking and found there were few opportunities for children with prosthetics to participate in and play sports, able-bodies sports. Most children just want to fit in, be a part of a team and accepted for who they are, not what they are missing. Children want to play, have friends and to experience the camaraderie of winning and losing as a team. All children deserve to feel that sense of belonging and that's what the Stephanie Decker Foundation seeks to provide. We believe that whether these kids are missing an arm or a leg that THEY ARE WORTH IT, and we want the world to know that they are worth it.

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We have to stand up and make a difference for these children. We need to fight so that insurance pay for this technology so kids and adults can get their lives back. Our foundation continues to fight laws and strive and push the envelope with technology. It is something I am passionate about because without this technology, I wouldn't be able to surf in the ocean, run with my kids, chase them up the rock wall, or swim with them at the water park.

My life changed forever on March 2, 2012. I lost my legs, but I also finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Now I am telling you that, no matter how old you are, there are still so many life lessons to be learned. Life is short and you never know what will happen to you. Don't wait for your second chance, do something now.

This post was brought to you by L'Oréal Paris Women of Worth, an initiative started in 2005 that honors 10 amazing volunteers combatting disease, poverty, sex trafficking and addiction with $10,000 grants each year. Go to WomenofWorth.com to read their stories.