Van Dyken's spirit still shines despite accident

Sat Oct 11, 2014 1:25pm EDT
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Olympic champion swimmer Amy Van Dyken does not remember the all-terrain vehicle accident that severed her spine.

Her husband sure does.

"I knew she was going to be hurt," said Tom Rouen. "It was just a matter of how bad. You never think of this scenario. You're hoping she might have broken a wrist or a shoulder."

Van Dyken was speeding on her ATV after dinner on a clear June evening in Show Low, Arizona, when she tumbled over a curb and fell about eight feet into the forest below. Rouen, who spent 10 years in the National Football League as a punter, jumped off his ATV and raced to her side.

Rouen was horrified by his wife's lifeless body.

"She was dead," he recalled in a telephone interview with Reuters. "When I got there, she wasn't breathing. She was face-down, completely out. It was a bad deal. It was scary."

When Rouen gently rolled her over -- fearing her neck was broken -- and began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), she came to life. Barely. She started to gasp for air and went into convulsions. Her eyes were going in two different directions.

Van Dyken was airlifted to a trauma center in Scottsdale, Arizona, scarcely alive. The 41-year-old, six-time Olympic gold medalist emerged from surgery paralyzed from the waist down.   Continued...

Former Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen poses for a photo as she sits in her wheelchair and listens to Usher perform on NBC's "Today Show" in the Manhattan borough of New York in this September 5, 2014, file photo.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/Files