Amy Van Dyken By: Sami Rivera

Amy Van Dyken, two-time olympic gold medalist, was born February of 1973 in Denver, Colorado. Dyken spent the majority of her childhood battling severe asthma, not being able to swim the entire length of the pool without collapsing from lack of breath. Public school was grueling for Dyken, as oftentimes classmates would tease her for not only her heavy breathing, but also her struggles with late diagnosed Dyslexia and her tall, elongated frame. However, these setbacks only motivated Dyken to embrace her differences and use the pool to her advantage.

"It didn't matter that I wasn't good, because I was with my friends, doing what they were doing," Dyken said. "I'd just get in there and try the best I could." (NYTimes)

Van Dyken left Cherry Creek high school as a state and junior Olympic champion and just missed the '92 Olympic team her first year at the University of Arizona. However, two years later at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, she and her teams placed first in the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly, 400-meter freestyle relay, and 400-meter medley relay. These victories made her the first American woman to win four gold medals in one Olympic Games.
While four-wheeling with her husband in 2014, former Bronco’s punter Tom Rouen, Dyken, then 41 years old, hit a curb and slipped down an embankment in the ATV. Rouen found her face down, not breathing, and was afraid to move her body in fear of worsening her injuries. “The doctor told me before I went into surgery to say our goodbyes," Van Dyken-Rouen said. "There was a good chance I wasn’t going to make it out of surgery." (thedenverchannel.com)
Dyken suffered a broken back at the T-11 vertebrae, paralyzing her from the waist down. She also endured four broken ribs, a severe concussion and four additional broken vertebrae. (colostate.edu) Surgery was performed upon her arrival at the medical center because of the severity and high-energy impact of her injury. Rods and screws were placed in the anterior side of her spine in order to relieve deadly pressure and maintain balance when seated. Because of the location of the injury, Dyken was no longer able to feel the lower half of her body (lower back, legs, feet) and considered to be paralyzed from the waist down.

In regular cases, a proper medical examination and an assessment of medical history. In addition, an x-ray, CAT scan, MRI or another form of screening is used to see the injury to the spine. When given within the first eight hours of injury, a powerful corticosteroid discovered in the 90’s named methylprednisolone (Medrol) has been noted to prevent the spread of the injury, inflammation, and the death of cells in the long term.

Most spinal cord injuries require intense physical therapy after surgery in order to restore feeling in paralyzed limbs. In addition, Myelography can be used as a real-time form of an X-ray to visually see the passage of intrathecal instillation and its effects on the subarachnoid space around the spinal cord. Dyken herself, after her injury, participated in physical therapy three times a week in two hour increments. Within the same year, Dyken was noted to regain feeling in her upper left thigh, and months later (with the employment of special equipment) she was able to walk again.
In the long term, patients of severe spinal injuries are likely to experience blood clots, loss of bladder control, pressure sores, respiratory problems, or spastic muscles. Although a full recovery is unlikely, physical therapy can assist in restoring function of paralyzed limbs and braces and walkers can be used later on.
Amy was recently named Captain of “Team Reeve”, to help raise money for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation and to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries. She also runs the Amy Van Dyken foundation and Amy’s Army. These foundations raise money for spinal cord injury treatment equipment for patients who otherwise couldn’t afford it.
These days, Amy travels nearly twice a week to cities all over the world in order to speak with nonprofit organizations and businesses about her injury. She remains an inspiration for those battling the repercussions of severe spinal injuries. Her dog, Kamu (up, left) was present throughout her recovery, and even paid visits to the ICU.

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