Paralyzed swimmer Van Dyken-Rouen stays positive for ‘toughest competition’ yet

Amy Van Dyken during the US Olympic Swim Trials in 2000.

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Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, who was paralyzed in an all-terrain accident that severed her spine, has asked fans to keep her in their thoughts as she is set to start her rehab.

Van Dyken-Rouen was injured June 6 when the ATV she was driving hit a curb and sent her hurtling off a drop-off near Show Low, Arizona. The accident left her paralyzed, though her family says it’s unclear if she will remain that way.

On Wednesday, she made an appearance on the TODAY show:

“I just want to thank you guys and everyone who watches the TODAY Show for all of your support, all of your prayers and your positive vibes. It’s definitely helping,” she said cheerfully, tapping her hands together at times.

Wednesday also marked the first day Van Dyken-Rouen, 41, spoke to media since the accident, and she recounted her conversation with her neurosurgeon before going into spinal surgery. 

"He told Tom and I to say our goodbyes," Van Dyken-Rouen told the media. "There was a good chance I wasn’t going to make it out of surgery. It was one of those things where I looked at my husband and basically said, ‘I love you, goodbye, please continue on with your life.’ I allow you to date, which was hard to say. To do that and then to be here now and to be with him is the most amazing thing."

The six-time Olympic champion was being transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver for extensive rehabilitation. 

"I’m excited to get to this new part of my life," Van Dyken-Rouen told the media on Wednesday. "It’s almost like a rebirth. I get to learn how to do everything all over again. I’m anxious to do that."

According to the Arizona Republic, Van Dyken-Rouen described her recovery as the "toughest competition I’ve ever had" and credits her athletic background with speeding the process. "I’m able to do a lot of things right down that a lot of people can’t do until weeks or months into therapy." 

"Yes, this injury sucks and yes things hurt," she said emotionally. "But I’m alive and I’m so thankful to be alive. That’s why I can be positive about it. It helps get me through the day."