Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
by Natalie Finn | Mon., Jun. 9, 2014 5:18 PM
Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
Amy Van Dyken's fans and loved ones are praying for her.
The champion swimmer, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, severed her spinal cord in an ATV accident on Friday in Arizona and remains hospitalized in intensive care at Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center, according to reports.
But apparently it could have been even worse, as her grateful family revealed in a letter released to Swimming World magazine.
"Her husband, [former NFL punter Tom Rouen], was with her at the time of the accident and bravely kept her stable until the helicopter arrived. An amazing team of doctors performed emergency surgery to repair her spine and stabilize her," the Rouen and Van Dyke families said.
Simon Bruty /Allsport/Getty Images
"Amy's spinal cord was completely severed at the T11 vertebrae, but, miraculously, a broken vertebrae stopped within millimeters of rupturing her aorta, and she did not suffer any head trauma," the letter continued.
"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. She has made at least one male nurse blush. Amy's attitude has been overwhelmingly positive and optimistic. She has been far more of a comfort to us than we have been to her."
Indeed, Van Dyken seems to be leading the cheerleading squad from her hospital bed, even posting humorous Instagrams.
"Never get us all together anymore. This is amazing. I have the best family," she wrote alongside a pic of family members taken from the patient's vantage point.
"A drawing from my niece and nephew. They are so sweet. Made me smile. #hospitalsSuck," Van Dyken also captioned a pic of a colorful drawing made by some very talented little kids.
The 41-year-old athlete won four gold medals at the Atlanta Summer Games in 1996 and another two in Sydney in 2000.
"Amy has a long, trying road ahead of her," the families continued, "but as anyone who knows her can attest, her unparalleled mental strength and determination will propel her. She is a fighter. Amy has overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles before, winning 6 Olympic gold medals and becoming one of the greatest female athletes of her generation despite battling lifelong chronic asthma. Now this is her new challenge, her new battle. With the unconditional love and support of her friends, family and fans, Amy welcomes the challenges she will face as she opens this new chapter of her life."
Rouen told the Denver Post that he and his wife were on their way home from dinner in Show Low, Az., when the ATV she was riding hit a curb and tumbled down an embankment. He was on a motorcycle and raced to get her.
"She wasn't breathing," he told the paper. "I raised up the back of her neck with my hand, she started gasping for air."
An accident report noted that Van Dyken could not move her toes and told paramedics that she couldn't feel anyone touching her legs.
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our US edition?
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our Canadian edition?
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our UK edition?
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our Australian edition?
Dieser Inhalt ist für internationale Besucher verfügbar. Möchtest du ihn in der deutschen Version anschauen?
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our German edition?
Une version adaptée de ce contenu est disponible pour notre public international. Souhaitez-vous voir ça dans notre édition française ?
This content is available customized for our international audience. Would you like to view this in our French edition?