Gold-medal Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken has released the shocking x-ray images of the recent spinal cord injury she suffered that left her paralyzed from the waist down. The images also show the effects of a risky surgery meant to pin her spine back together again.
Van Dyken was involved in an all-terrain vehicle accident in Arizona on June 6 that left her spine broken and her spinal cord severed.
On June 7, the Arizona Republic reported on just how devastating the injury was saying, “A post on Facebook from the Van Dyken and Rouen families said she severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebra and that the broken vertebra came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta.”
The swimmer, though, is putting up a cheerful and brave public face saying that she is “thankful to be alive” after the accident that nearly took her life.
Van Dyken was airlifted to Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado on June 18 because, as the swimmer said, the facility is “the best of the best.”
“I’m excited to get this new part of my life,” Van Dyken 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.”
Before the surgery to stabilize her spine, Van Dyken was told that it was possible that she wouldn’t survive the operation. She and her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, reportedly said their “goodbyes” before the operation began.
Van Dyken noted that the doctors “told Tom and I to say our goodbyes…. 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.'”
The Olympian’s surgeon, Dr. Luis Manuel Tumialan, said he was inspired by his patient’s attitude.
“She has literally walked through hell with a smile on her face, the likes of which I’ve never seen,” Dr. Tumialan said. “She’s not smiling because this is easy. She’s smiling because she is Amy Van Dyken-Rouen. I’d save her for last (on his rounds) so I can sit down and get a little bit of a lift.”
“Yes, this injury sucks and yes things hurt. 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,” Van Dyken said during the press conference.
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