SCOTTSDALE, AZ - Despite being paralyzed in an ATV crash, Olympic gold-medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen was smiling and happy as she was moved from a hospital in Arizona to Craig Hospital in Colorado on Wednesday.
"Yes, this injury sucks. And yes, things hurt. But I’m alive and I’m so thankful to be alive," Van Dyken-Rouen said outside the ambulance. "That's why I can be positive about it, it helps me get through the pain."
Van Dyken-Rouen talked to the media for the first time since her devastating crash in Show Low, Ariz. on June 6. Van Dyken-Rouen, and her husband, former Broncos punter Tom Rouen, were riding ATVs when Amy hit a curb and went down an embankment.
She said when her husband found her, she was facedown and not breathing.
While she doesn't remember much about the crash and being taken to the hospital, she does remember what the doctor told her before emergency surgery.
"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."
"I looked at my husband and said 'goodbye.' [I said] 'Please continue on with your life, I allow you to date,' which was hard to say, but we said our goodbyes," Van Dyken-Rouen said. "To do that and then to be here now, and to be with him, is the most amazing thing."
Van Dyken-Rouen's doctor said Amy had a "high-energy accident" and a "high-energy blunt trauma" that resulted in her not being able to feel her legs or move her legs.
"This is the toughest competition I’ve ever had," Van Dyken-Rouen said. "The fact that I am an athlete and the fact that I've been working out really hard has really helped this recovery process."
Van Dyken-Rouen said she's already started physical therapy and, because of her fitness level, she's been able to do things right now that a lot of patients can't do until weeks and months into therapy.
And of course, she has a great attitude about the wheelchair.
"I’m going to get the best wheelchair ever, I’m going to make it so cool," Van Dyken-Rouen said. "I’m going to do my hair to match my chair. I'm going to rock it out."
She also said she has plans for her father, who is not supposed to be walking.
She said she doesn't remember saying it, but she supposedly told him, "Hey Dad, now we can have some wheelchair races."
"Maybe it will help him as well," she said.
She said she is looking at everything with a positive attitude.
"Be happy every day you wake up, every day you take a breath is a blessing," Van Dyken-Rouen said.