KUSA - Four days after being injured in a ATV accident, Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken posted a picture of her herself on Instagram in what appears to be her hospital room filled with balloons.
"Doing great today. My room is the most decorated in ICU," she wrote. "Thx for ur thoughts & prayers!"
Van Dyken, a six-time Olympic gold-medal-winning swimmer, was hospitalized on Friday after suffering reportedly severe injuries in the crash. A post on Facebook from her family said she severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebra and that the broken vertebra came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta.
It's an accident that's changed the course of Amy Van Dyken's life and no one understands that more than her friend and former teammate Dave Denniston.
In 2005, Denniston broke his back during a sledding accident.
"I was sledding like I was 10, only I was 26, and I hit a tree," Denniston said. "In the middle of my back, my injury is almost the same as Amy's. I was a T10 and she is a T11."
The Paralympic athlete and coach says the road to recovery was hard, but the realization he'd never walk again was even harder. Having a wheelchair because his new norm, a reality he now embraces. Denniston says if anyone has the attitude and focus to keep pushing forward, it's Van Dyken.
"Making long-term goals, short-term goals, daily goals - that's what it takes to get to the podium, to win Olympic medals," Denniston said. "Setting those goals becomes second nature, so for her, this process of making that adjustment will come as second nature. She probably won't even think about it a whole lot in terms of getting upright, out the door, driving - all the things that she will end up doing."
9NEWS Medical Expert Doctor John Torres said it's a tough injury to come back from.
"The spinal cord itself, the nerves there, got severed. It means the signals are getting from her brain to right about here in her body, but beyond that, no signal is getting down," said 9News Medical Expert Dr. John Torres.
Denniston says he has no plans of recruiting Van Dyken for his Paralympic team but says he has every intention of getting her back to the one place she thrives: the pool.
"It's an amazing feeling being in the water, and I'm looking forward to seeing her experience that," Denniston said.
Van Dyken was a standout swimmer both at Cherry Creek High School and later at Colorado State University. John Mattos coached her at CSU and in the run-up to the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, where she won two gold medals.
"Amy is probably one of the toughest people I know," Mattos said. "She never backs down and she is going to use this whole thing as a challenge."