The six-time Olympic Gold medalist swimmer who severed her spinal cord in an ATV crash says the surgeon told her to say her goodbyes to her husband after the crash.
“There’s a good chance I wasn’t going to make it out of surgery,” Amy Van Dyken-Rouen said Wednesday. “I looked at my husband and basically said, ‘I love you, goodbye, please continue on with your life.’”
Her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen, said her injuries were so severe that he was telling her to go on, if she needed to.
"She was saying, 'Hey, if I don't make it I want you to move on,' but I was saying, 'Hey, if it's too much and you have to go, then go.'"
Rouen found his wife lying face down and not breathing June 6 in Arizona after the ATV she was driving hit a curb and sent her flying over an embankment.
Van Dyken-Rouen, 41, was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she has spent the past nearly two weeks recovering from her lifesaving surgery. On Wednesday, she was transferred to a rehabilitation center in her hometown of Denver.
“Yes this injury sucks and, yes, things hurt but I’m alive and I’m so thankful to be alive,” Van Dyken-Rouen told reporters Wednesday. "When the doctors come in and poke my legs it's hard but I'm going to get through it."
The former Olympic athlete may never regain movement of her legs, but her doctors say her recovery has been remarkable.
"The past 12 days, she literally walked through hell with a smile on her face, the likes of which I have never seen,” said Dr. Luis Manuel Tumialan, Van Dyken-Rouen's neurosurgeon.
Now Van Dyken-Rouen says she is going to approach her recovery with the same determination and spunk that led her to reach the pinnacle of her athletic career.
“I’m going to get the best wheelchair ever,” Van Dyken-Rouen said. “It’s going to have skulls and crossbones on it because that’s my thing.”
“I’m going to paint it purple. I’m going to do my hair to match my chair,” she said. “I’m going to rock it out. That’s my prognosis.”