What Recovery Means to a Former Olympic Swimmer

September 29, 2014

Gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen says she’s a better person for what happened to her. On June 6th this past spring, the athlete was off-roading with her husband, former Broncos punter Tom Rouen, when her ATV slid off the road and down a six-foot drop. Fortunately, Van Dyken-Rouen survived. She had sustained a spinal cord injury that left her with paraplegia. Click here to see the video.

Amy and her husband Tom Rouen — click to view her recovery story

The shocking news of her spinal cord injury hit media around the world with headlines like, “Former Olympian Paralyzed After Accident,” and “Decorated Olympic Swimmer Severs Spine”.

Although most reports have described Van Dyken-Rouen’s injury as a severed spine, her physician at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado, Dr. Mark Johansen explains, “Severed really isn’t an accurate term. Her spinal cord is severely damaged. Some of the nerves may have been separated, but there’s still architecture in there, so it’s not completely severed.”

Most of Amy’s therapies involve regaining as much strength as possible in her upper body so she can learn how to take care of her lower body. She recovered by reverting to her Olympic discipline. “Except this time, instead of going for a gold medal, I was working to get my life back,” she says.

These days, the athlete has a peppy, positive outlook. She has taken some steps with the assistance of an exoskeleton apparatus that stabilizes her legs enough to walk with a walker. And she is working with a specialized therapist who administers muscle activation therapy in the paralyzed areas of her legs and hips. “I worked with him after shoulder surgery during my training days as an athlete, I figured maybe this could help me – and in turn help others,” she says.


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