By Mia Fitzharris
You may remember swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen from the 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics, where she won six gold medals collectively.
However, the biggest challenge of Van Dyken-Rouen’s life hasn’t been in a swimming pool. Just 10 months ago, her spinal cord was severed in an all-terrain vehicle accident, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down. Her amazingly positive attitude and a team of dedicated doctors have put her on the road to recovery, with major progress toward her dream of walking again.
Van Dyken-Rouen sat down with Yahoo News and Finance anchor Bianna Golodryga to talk about the advances she has made since her accident. “I was using a walker, and then I’m in crutches which means that I’m getting my core strength back and getting a little bit of coordination back,” she said. “It’s amazing.”
Not only is Van Dyken-Rouen exceeding personal goals, but she is also helping to better the lives of other people living with spinal cord injuries. Today she announced her exciting new role as the captain of Team Reeve — the fundraising arm for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “Right now is a great time. The foundation is doing great things, taking strides to finding a cure. So it’s a good time to be able to talk about it,” she said. “We’re trying to raise, of course, awareness for spinal cord injuries and of course raise funds to try to get people to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.”
Van Dyken-Rouen is excited about the Reeve Foundation’s groundbreaking research in epidural stimulation, which can restore voluntary movement for those who suffer from spinal cord injuries. “This is the first time that anything has happened where someone who is paralyzed can not only stand up but that they get their bowel, bladder, and sexual function back,” she said. “That is huge.”
Her role will include putting together a team for the New York City Marathon and inspiring local participation in other events nationwide. She’s already gotten some recruitment practice by getting her family and friends to sign up.
Van Dyken says she’s still learning every day and hopes to encourage people to talk about paralysis.
Meanwhile, she’s looking forward to the future “I want to do things that I’ve never done before and just be extraordinary.”