ENGLEWOOD - Amy Van Dyken Rouen arrived in Colorado Wednesday afternoon after being airlifted from a hospital in Scottsdale, Ariz. to Craig Hospital - a rehabilitation hospital that specializes in spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries.
"The hardest has been when the doctors come in and poke my legs. It's hard," Van Dkyen Rouen said. "But, I am going to get through it. It's OK."
Her jet landed at Centennial Airport just before 2 p.m. She was then loaded into an ambulance and transported to the Englewood hospital.
In her first public appearance since her injury, Van Dyken Rouen made a statement and answered questions at 10:30 a.m.
"We don't know what's going to happen," Van Dyken Rouen said. "I have no feeling from probably my pubic bone down. I don't know if it will ever come back. So right now, I look at it this way. I'm going to get the best wheelchair ever. I am going to make it so cool. I am gonna put skulls and crossbones on it 'cause that's my thing and make it purple. I'm gonna do my hair to match my chair, and I'm going to rock it out."
Van Dyken Rouen also gave credit to her husband for her positive attitude towards her recovery.
"I look at him, and he saw some things that no one wants to see," Van Dyken Rouen said. "Seeing him every day and laughing and having a good time with him - that's where I'm getting my strength."
9News psychologist Dr. Max Wachtel says positivity will be instrumental in moving forward.
"It makes a huge difference physiologically if you're in a good place, mentally," Dr. Wachtel said. He adds athletes of the highest level know how to persevere.
"From the Olympic athletes that I have met, every single one of them would react the way that Amy is reacting," he said.
Van Dyken Rouen's surgeon also spoke about her injuries and condition. Van Dyken Rouen then boarded the Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance, which transported her to Colorado.
Van Dyken Rouen, a six-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer who grew up in Arapahoe County and graduated from Cherry Creek High School, was hospitalized at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborne Medical Center after severing her spine in an all-terrain vehicle accident June 6.
It's an accident that's changed the course of Van Dyken Rouen's life, but she's taking it all in stride.
"I am feeling good. I'm feeling great," said Van Dyken Rouen. "We got the pain under control and just you know, I am happy to be here. I'm thrilled. I'm relieved to be back at Craig Hospital where I know that my second life is going to start."
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," Dr. Torres said.
Craig Hospital says Van Dyken Rouen will be joining about 40 other patients, from around the U.S., with similar injuries. Van Dyken will have a SCI "Interdisciplinary" Team, consisting of herself, her husband and family, a physician, rehab nurse and rehab nurse technician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, clinical psychologist, therapeutic recreation specialist, dietitian, clinical care manager, and others, according to the hospital.
Van Dyken Rouen became the first U.S. woman to win four gold medals at one Olympics in the summer of 1996. She overcame asthma to win the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly at the 1996 Olympics. She also was on two winning relay teams. Van Dyken Rouen added two more Olympic relay gold medals in 2000.
She has lived in Arizona in recent years, working in local radio and later nationally for Fox Sports Radio. She swam for the University of Arizona for two years before transferring back to her home state to attend Colorado State. She was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Committee Hall of Fame in 2008.
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