PHOENIX, Arizona, June 18. OLYMPIC legend Amy Van Dyken spoke to the press at the Scottsdale Airport today before boarding a private plane to Colorado to begin rehabilitation from an accident on June 6 that rendered her paralyzed. It was the first time she spoke publicly since entering the hospital, besides her Tweets and Instagram photos that have kept her fans optimistic.
While lying on a stretcher just a few feet from the airplane set to transport her to Craig Hospital in Colorado, Van Dyken said her memory of the day she was thrown from an all-terrain vehicle in Show Low, Ariz., is very fuzzy. Most of what she knows was described to her after the fact. She described the feeling of losing bits that day like “I had a girls’ night out,” but continually expressed gratitude for being alive.
View video of the press conference below.
Also at the press conference was Dr. Luis Tumialan, the neurosurgeon who spent six hours in surgery repairing Van Dyken’s injuries. He went into detail about the T11 vertebrae break in Van Dyken’s back, and said “it is difficult to imagine” that the six-time Olympic champion would be able to walk again. On a positive note, Tumialan expressed his amazement at the amount of optimism she has conveyed in the past two weeks.
“She was a beacon in the ICU,” Tumialan said. “She’s a beam of sunshine as you walk around the (hospital) floor.”
Van Dyken arrived at Craig hospital earlier today, where she’ll spend time adjusting to life as a paraplegic. That will include learning to move in a wheelchair and do normal daily activities without the help of others. It’s where former national team swimmer David Denniston recovered from a broken back in 2005 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Denniston went on to become a Paralympic swimmer and now coaches the Paralympic national swim team in Colorado Springs.
Van Dyken said today that she might find herself back in the pool, hinting that a stint as a disabled competitive swimmer is not out of the question. Also in attendance at the press conference was Van Dyken’s husband, Tom Rouen, who has been by her side since the accident. Her mother, Becky, sat beside with her daughter every day in the Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center, and accompanied Van Dyken on the plane to Craig Hospital.