Melissa Rycroft on 'Dancing With the Stars' injury: 'It's been an emotional couple of days'
"I'm OK," she assured us after the dance -- which earned a nearly perfect score (29.5/30) from the judges -- while acknowledging, "When the adrenalin wears off is when you kind of start to feel like you need an ice pack."
Compared to the alternative -- leaving the show -- Rycroft can handle a little pain. "If I didn't get [medical] clearance, they weren't going to let me come back into the competition," she revealed. "I was told it was not an option just to sit out one night.
"It's been an emotional couple of days to say the least."
Riding beside Rycroft on that emotional roller-coaster has been her pro partner, Tony Dovolani, who feared the worst when she cried out in pain during their Sunday rehearsal.
"I was the one who asked for the ambulance to come in," he told us, "because you don't mess around with necks. In the end this is just a dance competition. Melissa has become a close family friend, so her safety was my No. 1 concern.
"The first thought that crossed my mind was, "Is she ever going to pick up her baby again?' And I was the one that was dancing with her. And that guilt kills you."
Visibly relieved, Dovolani added, "She's OK, and I'm happy."
Coincidentally, Rycroft had to sit out the team dance in Season 8 -- when she was also partnered with Dovolani -- due to an injury. "Believe me, the irony did not pass us!" she told us after tonight's happier outcome.
Unfortunately, the "Call Me Maybe" team -- which also included Apolo Anton Ohno, Shawn Johnson and Sabrina Bryan -- couldn't make any modifications to their rigorous, pep-rally-themed routine to accommodate Rycroft's injury.
"We didn't change the dance," she explained. "It's too late at this point to change it. I told Tony, 'I'm going to go out and do it. If something happens, I'm going to squeeze your hand -- that's your sign to know that something's going wrong.'
"I don't want to go home," Rycroft insisted, "especially due to a silly injury that we can work through hopefully."