Denver man paralyzed at 16 offers inspiration to Amy Van Dyken

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DENVER -- Joe White knows all to well what Olympic athlete Amy Van Dyken is going through.

White was paralyzed in a bicycle accident at age 16.

"You've had your world turned upside down and mentally you're always the same person you always were, but you have these challenges to overcome," he said.

White has been watching news of Van Dyken since her ATV accident this week. The crash severed her spinal cord.  She has no feeling in her legs.

The ATV accident will present the biggest challenge of her life, White says.

White is on the executive board of the Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Project.   He reaches out to others coping with recovery from traumatic injuries.

Medical experts say only time can reveal the full extent of spinal cord injuries, but Dr. Vikas Patel of the University of Colorado Hospital explains Van Dyken will most likely be paralyzed from the waist down due to the location of her injury.

"Her fracture was at T11, which is the lower part of the thoracic spine. But it's still above where all the nerves are going through all of the spine to get to the legs," Patel said.

White said Van Dyken will go through a number of emotional, psychological and physical phases that will require love and support from those around her.

"You don't think there's any hope," White said. "She's an Olympic athlete so she has the heart and the desire and the will to overcome challenges.”

For more  inspiring stories and information about how to support efforts that benefit Coloradoans with spinal cord injuries, visit