In the midst of the recent tornadoes that hit the South and the Midwest, an Indiana mother of two children lost parts of both her legs as she tried to protect her children from a tornado that hit her home.
Stephanie Decker, 36, was at home when she was notified by her husband via text message that a tornado was heading towards where they lived in the town of Henryville, Indiana. Thinking quickly, Decker got both of her children and headed towards the basement of their home, placing blankets over her children in an effort to protect them.
“Then she just stopped texting me,” said Joe Decker in an interview with USA Today.
According to the Louisville Courier Journal, as Decker lay in her hospital bed recovering from her injuries, Decker was unable to speak. Instead she had to communicate with her husband using an Ipad because she was using a ventilator to breathe.
After the first storm hit, a second came through her house and Decker tried to protect her children from any falling fragments of her surrounding house.
As she began to recount the events of that night to her husband, Stephanie said that she saw a huge piece of debris begin to crash and she was able to remove her daughter right before it would have hit her, saving her life.
“She doesn’t remember anything after that,” Joe Decker told the Courier Journal.
She recounted that after awhile, all of the debris began to hit her in her back causing her to lay on top of her children making sure they wouldn’t be touched by the debris as well. When the tornado stopped, she saw that her home was no longer there and feared that no one would find them since they were trapped under so much debris. She also looked down and noticed that her leg was hanging, barely attached to her body.
Decker’s 8-year-old son was then able to get himself out of the debris and run to find help. Her neighbor, a County Clark sheriff named Brian Lovins came to assist Decker and her children. He was able to stop the flow of Decker’s blood by using a tourniquet.
This horrific accident comes just months after an eerily similar incident of a West Springfield woman who died trying to protect her daughter when a series of tornadoes hit Western Massachusetts this past June.
Angelica Guerrero, like Decker, used her body to shield her 15-year-old daughter from the falling debris inside their home. Unfortunately, Guerrero died protecting her daughter, while her daughter survived, enduring severe wounds to her legs.
“What I told her was, ‘You’re alive, and you get to see your kids grow up,’ ” Joe Decker told CNN. “If you look in the basement, there’s no way anybody should have lived, let alone two kids who don’t have a scratch on them.”
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About the authors
Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.