Stephanie Decker reflects, looks ahead after tornado nearly killed her

Stephanie Decker: 5 years after March 2nd tornadoes

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Stephanie Decker's story of survival captivated the country. Her will to survive as she shielded her two children from a spawn of tornadoes that hit portions of southern Indiana and northern Kentucky five years ago made national headlines.

She was honored for her heroism by the New York Yankees and even met President Obama at the White House. WHAS11 Chief Meteorologist Ben Pine sat down with Decker to reflect on the moment that changed her life and the work she's now committed to do.

"We look at things as the glass half full, not empty," Stephanie Decker told WHAS11.

It's how she and her family chose to live life. That path of positivity has had its ups and downs, but Decker believes it's the only path worth taking.

"You can either sit on your butt and do nothing and feel sorry for yourself, or you can get up and walk again and do something with it," she said.  

Decker's done a lot of walking since losing portions of both of her legs - sacrificing her own body to protect her two kids as their home collapsed on top of them.  It was a result from an EF-4 tornado that hit in their home on March 2, 2012. 

The triathlete was outfitted for special prosthetics –a process she's still getting used to.  "It takes a good one thousand hours to get good on one prosthetic, much less two," she said.

Her experiences as an amputee and her journey to walk again led her to start the Stephanie Decker Foundation which supports children with prosthetics, including young athletes.

"It's hard growing up as a kid, much less the kid that looks different and they just want to be the kid that they are. They don't want to be known as the kid who's missing a leg or the kid that's missing an arm," she said.

The foundation is also gaining access to leading-edge prosthetics.  Decker is working to make the best prosthetic technology available to everyone regardless of the cost to the insurance company.  "Now you don't have to find a company that will pay or a non-profit that will pay for your sports blades.  You should be able to run this through your insurance, which it should be."

Decker's work doesn't stop there.  She says she's in talks about writing a book and even having her story played out on the big screen.  She's also hoping to make it on your TV screen as a contestant and first-time double-amputee competitor on ABC's 'Dancing with the Stars.' 

"I was told you can never do that show, just not possible.  It's too challenging, too difficult and those impossibilities are the ones I love the most," Decker said with a smile.

She's preparing for the opportunity, taking weekly trips to Nashville learning how to dance.  She also taught her family about how to respond to emergencies, telling us the tornado was a wake-up call for them.  They've rebuilt their home with safety in mind, including a storm shelter she describes as Ft. Knox.

Her family now has a plan and she urges other families to have one, too.  "It is knowing what to do and where to go.  Your plan of action and then we actually kind of run through that plan of action," she explained.

They are lessons about life from a woman who almost lost hers.  Decker, now more than ever, proving even when you get knocked down, you can stand right back up.

"Look how far we've come in 5 years.  It's been pretty eye-opening and it's been a good thing.  Really have enjoyed these last five years," she said. 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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