In The News – Gold Medalist Exudes Optimism Despite Paralysis
Englewood, Colo.—Two weeks after severing her spinal cord in an ATV accident, six-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen continues to inspire people with her positive attitude.
While being transported to a rehabilitation hospital, the 41-year-old athlete and radio host spoke to reporters. “Yes, this injury sucks, and yes, things hurt, but I’m so thankful to be alive,” she said. “That’s why I can be so positive about it.”
Van Dyken-Rouen, who wasn’t breathing immediately after the accident, recounted how doctors told her and her husband to say their goodbyes. “To do that, and then to be here now and to be with him is the most amazing thing.”
Saying she has no feeling in her legs, Van Dyken-Rouen admitted there have been tough moments. But she said, “Every day you take a breath is a blessing. Sometimes we take it for granted. You can get through anything as long as you have a positive attitude.”
Van Dyken-Rouen’s friend and former baseball star Kenny Lofton, said, “If you were to just read a text from her or hear her talk, you’d be like, ‘Did this lady just have an accident or not?’”
Even Van Dyken-Rouen’s neurosurgeon was amazed by his optimistic patient. Dr. Luis Manuel Tumialan said, “She has literally walked through hell with a smile on her face, the likes of which I’ve never seen. She’s not smiling because this is easy. She’s smiling because she is Amy Van Dyken-Rouen.”
The ultra-competitive athlete admits her new challenges will be “the toughest competition I’ve ever had.” But she’s approaching them “almost like a rebirth.” She said, “I get to learn how to do everything all over again, and I’m anxious to do that … Start my new life.”
Dr. Tumialan said it’s “difficult to imagine” Van Dyken-Rouen walking again. But the athlete says, “I’m going to get the best wheelchair ever. I’m going to make it so cool. … I’m going to do my hair to match my chair, and I’m going to rock it out. That’s my prognosis.”
Sources: USAToday.com, denverpost.com, today.com, cnn.com
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Discussion Questions for Student Small Groups
How do you feel about Van Dyken-Rouen’s reaction to her paralysis? How do you think she’s able to maintain such a positive attitude, despite the way her life suddenly changed? Do you expect she’ll be able to maintain this optimism over the long haul? Why or why not?
If you were in a similar situation, with your life suddenly upended, what do you think would be going through your mind? Would you be able to smile while talking about your “new life,” or would you be mourning your old one? Explain.
If you thought today would be your last day on earth, what would you tell your family and friends? If you were then given another chance at life, what would you do differently in the future?
Why do adversities and challenges often bring out the best in people? How can you keep them from bringing out the worst in you? What can you do when sorrow and regret threaten to take over?
Think of a time when you were grateful despite facing tough circumstances. What helped you maintain that perspective? What impact did your attitude have on the people around you?
Why is it so easy to take life and the basics of life for granted? How can you view each new day as a blessing, rather than as just something to survive?
Do you agree you can “get through anything” if you stay positive? Why or why not?
In what ways does your faith in Jesus help you remain optimistic? How does that sense of joy make it easier to tell other people about Jesus?
Scripture links: Job 19:20-25; Psalm 30; Ecclesiastes 7:2-3; Isaiah 26:3; 2 Corinthians 1:8-11; and Philippians 4:4, 12-13.