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Former U.S. swim star Van Dyken takes first steps since paralysis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Olympic swimming champion Amy Van Dyken took her first steps this week since being paralyzed from the waist down when she severed her spinal cord in an all-terrain vehicle crash earlier this summer.

In videos and images she posted online, Van Dyken is seen standing and starting to walk with the help a robotic exoskeleton device aimed at supporting patients' bodies and helping them move.

"I feel good. Woo hoo!" she said in one video, posted late Thursday.

"Here it is... I'm WALKING!!!" she wrote in another post.

Another photograph shows Van Dyken, who won a total of six gold medals at the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, standing alongside her husband, former Denver Broncos punter Tom Rouen.

Van Dyken's steps come just eight days after her release from a rehabilitation center in Colorado.

In June, Van Dyken crashed her all-terrain vehicle near her Arizona home and was left with no movement in her legs despite several surgeries. Since then, she has vowed to one day walk again and has been active on social media documenting her recovery.

It was not immediately clear what kind of exoskeleton device Van Dyken used. An assistant in one photo appears to be wearing a shirt with the logo for Indego, a wearable, motorized device sold by Parker Hannifin Corp markets for use in medical clinics.

ReWalk Robotics Inc, which has plans take the company public, also sells a system for both clinical and personal use. It won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year to market it as long as it continues to gather data on its use.

Such devices also have helped other paraplegics, including a man who earlier this summer kicked the first ball of the World Cup. A British woman in 2012 used a robotic exoskeleton to complete the London Marathon, although it took her 17 days.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey)

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