ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – As former Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken-Rouen continues her rehabilitation at Craig Hospital, she is now taking short trips many of us take for granted.
A nearly fatal ATV accident on June 6 near her Arizona home left Van Dyken, 41, partially paralyzed. She was transferred a few weeks later to Craig Hospital in Englewood.
Van Dyken was a Colorado resident when she wowed the world with her swimming prowess in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics and won six gold medals. She is trying to master much simpler physical accomplishments now. CBS was there recently as she learned to grocery shop in a wheelchair.
For an Olympic champion once at the top of her sport it would seem reaching the top shelf at a grocery would offer little thrill.
“It’s huge moment. Grocery shopping is like a thing,” she said.
Van Dyken is fighting to regain whatever she can in her therapy. She does all the heavy lifting of physical therapy with a seemingly light heart but occasionally acknowledges her frustrations.
“Being able to do whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it and now I can’t get out of bed to make myself a cup of coffee when I want it? It’s going to be tough,” she said.
Her husband Tom Rouen, a former punter for the Denver Broncos, says his wife is filling her hours with hope.
“She’s just excited to take on every challenge every day,” she said.
The word Van Dyken chooses to use about her situation is “fun.”
“It has to be fun. This is my new life. I have no other choice,” she said.
Van Dyken is building physical strength in workouts, but she seems to need no help in finding an incredible source of internal strength.
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