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Mom who lost legs told kids, 'You're not going to die'

Stephanie Decker had just seconds to save her 8-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter when a massive tornado arrived in Henryville, Ind. NBC's Tom Costello reports.

From her hospital bed, an Indiana mother who lost both of her legs but saved her two children described the frightening moments when a tornado ripped through the family's home.

"They're screaming, 'Mommy, I can't live without you, I don't want to die, please don't let me die,' and I said, 'You're not going to die. We're going to make it,'" she told NBC's TODAY show in an interview that aired Tuesday.


Stephanie Decker, 36, lost one leg above the knee and the other above the ankle, and broke seven ribs, but her two children, Dominic, 8, and Reese, 5, were unharmed after a twister with 175 mph winds leveled their house in Marysville, Ind.

Stephanie Decker recounts the terrifying experience of shielding her children as their house fell down around them.

"Everything started hitting my back," Decker, now listed in fair condition in a Louisville, Ky., hospital, said. "Beams, pillars, furniture - everything was just slamming into my back, but I had my children and the blanket, and I was on top of them."

Earlier in the day, Stephanie Decker's husband, Joe, had sent his wife a text message from work,  telling her that radar was showing a tornado headed straight for their three-story brick and stone house, reported the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Decker had arrived home minutes before, and she and the kids immediately headed down to the basement. 

Once the funnel cloud passed, the 8,000-square-foot, three-level house -- which the paper reported was the family's dream home -- was destroyed and Decker and her children were buried under rubble. Dominic and Reese, miraculously, didn't even have a scratch on them, but Decker was bleeding profusely.

Ind. mom loses legs but saves kids from tornado

"I looked at my leg and realized either it was cut off, or it was barely attached," she told TODAY. "I took my phone and made a video to my husband telling him I loved him."

Joe Decker, whose wife lost her legs protecting their children from a tornado in Henryville, Ind., tells NBC's Tom Costello about the harrowing moments before he knew his family had survived the storm and his hopes for the future.

Dominic ran next door for help. Neighbor and local sheriff's deputy Brian Lovins came to the rescue, using a belt as a tourniquet to stop the flow of blood from Decker's severed leg.

"She's like, 'I'm dying, I'm dying,'" Lovins told TODAY, his voice breaking with emotion. "Her kids were able to get out and call for help, and her kids saved her life."

Tornado drops boy on highway, 350 ft. from home

Decker said she survived because of her kids.

"I prayed to have the strength to survive," she said. "I wanted these kids to have a mom. I did not want them to have to grow up without me."

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