A mother’s intuition is a powerful thing. When children are in danger, there are countless stories of mothers doing incredible acts of strength and bravery.
Stephanie Decker is definitely one of them.
Reacting to a sudden, terrifying emergency, Decker was forced to make a split-second decision that ended up saving both her children’s lives—but at a terrible cost to Stephanie. But she’s never regretted a thing.
It was March 2, 2012. Decker and her children were living in Henryville, Indiana. A large number of devastating tornados had recently been tearing through the Midwest.
Little did Decker realize a massive one was about to hit her town—and her house would be right in the middle of it all.
“It was nothing I expected,” she told ABC News.
She had just returned home with her two kids, 8-year-old Dominic and 5-year-old Reese, when she realized disaster was coming.
“I looked up and I saw our trampoline that was staked in the ground go flying across the yard,” she recalled to People Magazine. “Then the entire house started to shake. I became petrified at that point and one of the windows busted in.”
The tornado was tearing the house apart.
Facing terrible danger, Decker came up with a makeshift emergency plan: she took her family down to the basement, wrapped them in a comforter, and shielded them with her own body.
“I grabbed the kids and I wasn’t letting go,” Decker told CBS News.
“If they were going to fly, I was going to fly with them.”
While she had the kids under shelter, she saw the tornado rip her home apart.
“I watched the foundation separate from the house and lift up,” she told People.
But Decker was terrified when she saw a 20-foot steel beam from that had been supporting the house.
“I could see it in slow motion,” she told People. “I was covered in bricks and stones. I could let go of them, move the stuff off me and get away from that beam.”
Instead, she did something heroic:
“I chose to let the beam fall instead of letting go of my kids. The feeling was, ‘I’d rather get my arms ripped off instead of letting go of my kids.’”
Her arms weren’t ripped off—but her legs were crushed by the beam.
Decker could feel her legs being nearly severed. She was quickly losing blood—but couldn’t afford to pass out, since she was still protecting her children.
“I remember the whole thing,” she said. “I stayed conscious the whole time… They needed me.”
Soon, her son was able to return his mother’s heroism and saved her life by running to a neighbor’s house to get help.
As Decker lied there bleeding to death, she used her cell phone to make a video for her husband—to tell him she loved him, possibly for the final time.
But she also made a promise to herself—if she survived, she would do something great.
“I knew if I could get out of here I would somehow try and make an impact,” she told People.
Decker did survive. She was rushed to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. Both her legs had to be amputated—but she never regretted her choice.
“I don’t even think twice about it,” she told People.
Not only that, she was incredibly optimistic about the future:
“I’ve learned that if I can make it through that, I can make it through anything,” Decker told CBS News from the hospital.
“And I’m going to make it through this and I’m going to walk again. Nobody’s going to tell me different. It will happen.”
Decker was fitted with prosthetic legs, and five years latter, she’s made good on her promises—both to walk again, and to make a difference in the world.
In the year after the incident, she started the Stephanie Decker Foundation, which helps children with prosthetic limbs participate in sports. In 2014, she gave a TED Talk on overcoming her amputation.
Decker had always been athletic before the accident, and continues to push herself physically, never letting the prosthetics hold her back.
“I love the impossible,” she told People. “That’s my forte.”
But most importantly, Stephanie now lives safely with her family—and the two kids she’d give anything for.