Mary Lou Retton Says Family Was “Saying Their Goodbyes” When She Was In ICU

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In October 2023, Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton was “fighting for her life” in the ICU, now four months later she gave her first interview.

Since the 1984 Olympics, Mary Lou Retton has been hailed and inspiration and hero when she became the very first American gymnast to take home the all-around gold medal. She blazed a trail for American gymnasts because since her win, there have been five Americans who followed in her footsteps: Carly Patterson (2004), Nastia Luikin (2008), Gabby Douglas (2012), Simone Biles (2016), Sunisa Lee (2020).

On October 10, 2023, Retton’s daughters set up a crowdfunding page, revealing that their iconic mom was in the ICU fighting a rare form of pneumonia.

“My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life,” her daughter McKenna Kelley wrote on the page. “She is not able to breathe on her own. She’s been in the ICU for over a week now. Out of respect for her and her privacy, I will not disclose all details. However, I will disclose that she not insured.”

The girls raised a total of $459,324, and their goal was $50,000. Incredible.

The next several days were a rollercoaster, with Retton making progress, then suffering a setback, then making progress again.

She was finally released from the hospital on October 23, 2023.

On October 31, Mary Lou Retton herself made her first statement since her hospitalization. She took to her Instagram and wrote,

“I am beyond grateful to have the opportunity to make this statement. I am overwhelmed with all the love and support from the world as I fight. I am forever grateful to you all.”

Mary Lou Retton's statement following her hospital release
Mary Lou Retton / Instagram

RELATED: Mary Lou Retton Issues First Statement Since Life-Threatening Health Issues & Hospitalization

In a new interview with Today Show‘s Hoda Kotb, Retton spoke about what led to her hospitalization, and what her life has been since then.

She now has to wear a breathing apparatus to give her oxygen, which you can clearly see in the interview.

Retton revealed that her first symptoms were fatigue and shortness of breath, but the olympian attributed that to aging. The next day, Retton was found by her neighbor on the floor and was promptly driven to the hospital.

“I literally was lying on my bedroom floor and I said, I can’t do this…. I couldn’t breathe,” she said.

Doctors weren’t sure what was making her so sick and eventually sent her home after a couple days, despite telling them repeatedly that she couldn’t breathe.

Once she returned home, there was another similar incident, where her daughters this time found her. They rushed her to a different hospital.

She tested negative for COVID, the flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

After a week, the doctors were telling her family to say goodbye, which she revealed to Kotb through tears.

“They were saying their goodbyes to me,” she said. “[Doctors] were about to put me on life support.”

Luckily, they tried pumping “high pump” oxygen through her nose, which saved her life.

“I am so grateful to be here. I am so blessed to be here,” she said.

A fighter by nature, Retton says she was never going to give up. While she doesn’t know what the future holds, she knows she will be here.

We will keep Retton in our prayers as she continues to recover. Watch the full interview below.