Amy Van Dyken Rouen, who competed as Amy Van Dyken, is in an Arizona hospital tonight after a severe injury to her spine while riding an ATV. In a June 9 article, Fox News reports that Van Dyken hit a curb on her ATV and was ejected. She was not wearing a helmet.
Fox states that the family has released a statement describing the injury as a transection or severing of the spine at the level of the T11 vertebrae. She has has surgery to stabilize her spine. A hospital spokesperson told Fox that her condition was good.
The 41 year old Rouen swam for the United States in both the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics. She received six gold medals, four in relays and two in individual competition. She began swimming to overcome asthma as a child. Prior to the 2000 Olympics, she underwent several shoulder surgeries but was still able to compete.
USA Swimming released this statement about Amy Van Dyken’s accident:
The USA Swimming family is devastated to learn of Amy Van Dyken’s unfortunate accident this weekend. We’re happy to hear that she escaped and is now in great care. That she is already ‘acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self’ shows she’s on a great path.
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.
With a severed spinal cord at the T11 level, Rouen is facing a permanent loss of use of her legs. The nerves that make up the spinal cord do not regenerate or reattach once cut. Depending upon the exact location of the injury, her functional loss may be use of the entire leg or just the leg below the knee, according to the Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. She should retain complete control of her arms and hands, her breathing and her speech.
Mrs. Rouen's spine will remain stabilized until she has healed. Medications will be used, if necessary, to control pain and other symptoms from the injury. At some point, she will enter rehabilitation. The extent of her rehab will depend on her original injury along with how well she has healed.