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March 2012 tornado coverage

March 27, 2012

On her way home: Tornado victim Stephanie Decker released from physical rehab

NEW ALBANY — After losing her legs, saving her children, going through rigorous physical therapy and pushing herself to get home, Stephanie Decker made it sound like she doesn’t intend to relax after her release from Southern Indiana Rehab Hospital on Monday.

Instead, she took up a challenge from her son, Dominic, to a game of hoops.

“Even in this wheelchair, I can kick your butt,” Stephanie said.

The Henryville woman had parts of both legs amputated after the tornadoes March 2. Hunkered down in the basement after getting her kids out of school early, she threw herself on top of her children as the storms ripped her home apart.

Now, with both children safe and pushing herself through her therapy, Stephanie made her way home after just starting rehab March 16.

“I worked really hard, I wanted to get out of here,” Stephanie Decker, 36, said. “I had already been two weeks in the hospital and that’s just not me.”

Amanda Livers, one of Decker’s occupational therapists at the rehab facility, said her regimen consisted of three hours of therapy for five days. She said her recovery was very fast.

“She was definitely above what we’d expect for someone that’s a bilateral amputee,” Livers said. “She can cook, she made her son macaroni and cheese one day. She’s totally independent at wheelchair level.”

Jennifer Estes, one of Decker’s physical therapists, said the support from her family and the desire to get back to her children helped her get out so early.

“She had great family and community support, which really makes a difference,” Estes said. “She was constantly talking about her children, how she wanted to read stories to them and ask about their day at school.”

Her family’s home in Henryville was completely destroyed. She said donations have come in from all over the country, but she’s thankful for the help she’s received locally. She said friends are helping to get the home the family has been renting in Sellersburg wheelchair accessible.

Though she said rebuilding the home in Henryville isn’t an option and a place her family doesn’t want to revisit, she’s looking forward to their new life and making her way out of the wheelchair.

Decker said her road to recovery isn’t finished, though. She said in about a week and a half, she’ll meet with doctors at University Hospital in Louisville to talk about finishing the skin grafts on her legs.

From there, she said discussions about prosthetic devices can begin. She said doctors have told her that in three months, she’ll begin walking.

But while she looks forward to walking again, she said she’s even more glad she’ll be able to raise her children, watch them grow up and have kids of their own.

“The one thing I’m ready to do is play with these two crazy kids,” she said. “The first thing I’m going to do is what they want to do.”

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