SELLERSBURG, Ind. (AP) — A southern Indiana woman who lost parts of both her legs last year when a deadly tornado destroyed her home says she is working to regain physical and mental strength and that many good things have come of the tragedy.
Stephanie Decker, a 38-year-old Frankfort native, protected her two young children from falling debris on March 2, 2012, as the twister demolished her family's house near Henryville, Ind., about 20 miles north of Louisville. She's now learning to walk on prosthetic legs.
Decker has since lobbied for legislation that would require private insurers to give amputees in her native Kentucky greater access to advanced prosthetics, The Courier-Journal reported Thursday. The bill advanced out of a Kentucky House committee Wednesday.
Decker has also appeared on national television, accompanied her family on a pre-game visit with the New York Yankees and visited the Oval Office with her family. She appealed to President Barack Obama in June for greater access for amputees to current prosthetic technology, which has greatly advanced in response to American military personnel injuries.
"So many good things have come from this accident," Decker told The Courier-Journal. "I know that's kind of strange to say."
Decker plans to mark Saturday's tornado anniversary by inviting friends, relatives and supporters to sign the framework of the family's new home in Sellersburg. The tornado killed at least 35 people and injured many others in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. Thousands of buildings were damaged or destroyed.
The afternoon of March 2, 2012, Decker picked up her two children — Dominic, 9, and Reese, 6 — from school while her husband, Joe, was still at work at Silver Creek High School in Sellersburg. When the tornado hit, Decker huddled over her two children in the basement as a steel beam, bricks and other debris fell. She was rescued from the basement and taken to a hospital. She had surgery, and two months later stood on her first prosthetic leg.
She has since resumed a regular routine.
"I get up in the morning and instead of putting on a pair of shoes, I put on a pair of legs," Decker said. "And then my day begins. It's fixing lunches, getting kids off to school. I then usually head off to the gym. ... It's one of the things that has really helped me get physically and mentally back in shape."
Decker still runs errands at the store and takes her kids to baseball, softball and basketball games. She walks with the help of a cane and her right prosthetic ankle has a setting for driving.
"Our life doesn't revolve around this tornado," she said. "We more think about the people who are still suffering out there."