Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken severed her spinal cord in an all-terrain vehicle crash on Friday in Arizona, The Associated Press reports. The six-time Olympic gold medalist, who goes by her married name Amy Van Dyken Rouen, was air lifted to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn Medical Center and had surgery to stabilize her spine.
As of Monday afternoon, Van Dyken Rouen was in good condition, according to hospital spokeswoman Alice Gierdraitis.
According to a letter from the Van Dyken and Rouen families, the broken vertebrae came within millimeters of rupturing her aorta. ''Amy awoke within hours of surgery acting like her typical spunky, boisterous, ebullient self and has spent the last 24 hours entertaining her family and her medical staff in the ICU,'' the letter said.
The accident occurred when Van Dyken Rouen's ATV hit a curb in a restaurant parking lot and she fell between five and seven feet, the Show Low Police Department reports. The 41-year-old swimmer, who wasn't wearing a helmet at the time, was found on the ground next to the vehicle and told emergency workers she couldn't move her toes or feel anything touching her legs.
Van Dyken Rouen's husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom, told law enforcement that he had changed the throttle mechanism on the ATV from a thumb to a twist accelerator a few days before the accident, though he wasn't sure if that was to blame. He also added that his wife had not been drinking alcohol.
Van Dyken Rouen became the first U.S. female athlete to win four gold medals in a single games at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. She captured two more gold medals in Sydney before she retired.