SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Amy Van Dyken Rouen, a six-time Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer, is in an intensive-care unit in Scottsdale, Ariz. after injuries suffered in an all-terrain vehicle accident, according to the Arizona Republic.
Amy's brother, David Van Dyken, posted on Facebook that Amy was airlifted to Osborn Medical Center after suffering an injury in the ATV accident Friday.
Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, said she suffered a broken back. The Associated Press reported that she severed her spine. A letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families said she severed her spinal cord at the T11 vertebrae and that the broken vertebrae came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta.
It's an accident that's changed the course of Amy Van Dyken's life. 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.
The ATV crash happened on Friday in Show Low, Arizona, about 180 miles east of Phoenix. Van Dyken's family said her husband was with her at the time and helped keep her stable before paramedics arrived.
Show Low police officers, according to their report, were dispatched to the Torreon Golf Club at 7:55 p.m. Friday after receiving a 911 call about Van Dyken Rouen's accident.
Van Dyken Rouen was conscious but having trouble breathing and without feeling in her legs. A witness saw Van Dyken Rouen driving an ATV through a parking lot and "launch over" a curb. She was not wearing a helmet. The witness said he ran to Van Dyken Rouen, found her unresponsive and called 911.
Rouen became the first U.S. woman to win four golds at one Olympics. She overcame asthma to win the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly at the 1996 Olympics. She also was on two winning relay teams. Rouen added two more Olympic relay golds in 2000.
Van Dyken Rouen has tweeted twice since the injury occurred on Friday including a picture that she says her niece and nephew drew for her.
The Arizona Republic was the first to report Van Dyken's injury. Swimming World Magazine posted a statement from the family saying she has a long road to recovery ahead.
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."
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.
Missy Franklin released the following statement on Van Dyken Rouen's accident:
It was so hard to hear about the horrific accident Amy was in. I immediately started praying for her and her family, and was so happy knowing she was tweeting from the hospital and had such an outpouring of support from the swimming and Colorado community. I will continue praying for her and a speedy recovery, and know that Amy will be on many people's hearts over the next few weeks.
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