Team USA Olympic Swimmer Amy Van Dyken Has Severed Her Spinal Cord
For Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken Rouen, who won six gold medals between the 1996 and 2000 summer games, a tragic accident involving an all-terrain vehicle on Friday has severed Van Dyken Rouen's spinal cord and landed her in the ICU. According to a letter from her family, the 41-year-old's spinal cord was severed at the T11 vertebrae, which is just millimeters from the aorta. Husband Tom says she is in "good spirits" and a hospital spokesperson confirmed she is listed in "good condition."
According to the family letter published on swimmingworldmagazine.com, Van Dyken Rouen had emergency surgery at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center after being airlifted away from the scene of the accident in Show Low, AZ, and is already back to her old self, in a way. Her family says.
Amy awake within hours of surgery acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, embullient self and has spent the last 24 hours entertaining her family and her medical staff in the ICU. Amy's attitude has been overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. She has been far more of a comfort to us than we have been to her. Amy has a long, trying road ahead of her, but as anyone who knows her can attest, her unparalleled mental strength and determination will propel her. She is a fighter.
According to a report from the Show Low Police Department, one witness says Van Dyken Rouen drove her ATV over a curb at the Torreon Golf Club on Friday evening, and he went to help her. He found her to be unresponsive, without a helmet on, and called for help. Police say Van Dyken Rouen was not under the influence of alcohol and no charges have been filed at this time.
Husband Tom says they were on their way back from dinner when his wife hit a curb and flipped the ATV down an embankment. He was driving his motorcycle nearby and rushed to come to her aid. According to The Denver Post, Rouen said: "She wasn't breathing. I raised up the back of her neck with my hand, she started gasping for air."
According to the police report: "Amy was unable to move her toes or her feet when asked by EMS. When asked about feeling in her legs, Amy stated she could not feel anything touching her legs."
Since the news broke on Friday, the USA Swimming Organization as well as Van Dyken Rouen's former teammates and fellow swimmers have rallied behind her. Her swimming buddies have even sent out hopeful tweets:
The USA Swimming Organization said in a statement:
We're happy to hear that [Amy] escaped [her accident] and is now in great care. Amy is a champion who has proven throughout her life that she is a fighter who takes on challenges and comes out on top. We know Amy will tackle her rehabilitation with vigor and be back on her feet sooner rather than later.
Van Dyken Rouen, who was inducted in 2008 into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame, has posted a few updates on Twitter, letting us all know that she may be down, but she's far from being out.