Olympian Mary Lou Retton Breaks Silence On Life-Threatening Health Battle

By Jason Hall

October 30, 2023

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Olympic gold medal gymnast Mary Lou Retton issued a public statement for the first time since being diagnosed with a rare, life-threatening form of pneumonia earlier this month.

"I am beyond blessed to have the opportunity to make this statement," Retton wrote in a post shared on her Instagram account Monday (October 30). "I am overwhelmed with all the love and support from the world as I fight. I am forever grateful to you all!

"I'm with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process. I appreciate everyone's respect of my privacy at this time.

"When the time is right, I will be sharing more information about my health issues and hope I can help others who may face the same battle as me.

"I love you all. -MLR."

On October 18, Retton's daughter, Shayla Kelley Schrepfer, gave an update in which she claimed her mother's case took a "scary setback" after saying she was making "remarkable" progress days prior.

“Basically, at the beginning of this week we were going on the up and up. We were so excited, seeing so much progress and then yesterday, we had a pretty scary setback. She is still in ICU, and we’re just working through some things as far as her setback goes," Schrepfer said.

Schrepfer did mention that Retton, 55, "had a better day" on October 18, but noted that she was "just really, really exhausted." On October 14, Retton's family shared "uplifting news" regarding progress in her health battle.

"Mom's progress is truly remarkable. Prayers have been felt and are being answered," the family said. "Although she remains in ICU, her path to recovery is steadily progressing. Her fighting spirit is truly shining!

"Her breathing is becoming stronger, and her reliance on machines is diminishing.

"Though it's a lengthy journey, witnessing these improvements is incredibly heartening! She's beginning to respond to treatments.

"One more, we extend heartfelt gratitude for your overwhelming love and support."

Earlier this month, Retton's other daughter, former LSU gymnast McKenna Kelley, revealed that her mother was "fighting for her life" while battling "a very rare form of pneumonia" in a Spotfund fundraiser launched on October 10.

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

"We ask that if you could help in any way, that 1) you PRAY! and 2) if you could help us with finances for the hospital bill.

"ANYTHING, absolutely anything, would be so helpful for my family and my mom. Thank y’all so very much!"

Retton is one of the most decorated American gymnasts in history, having won five medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics, which included becoming the first American woman to win the individual all-around competition. The West Virginia native appeared in several film and television show and served as an ambassador to the sport, as well as the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during former President George W. Bush's administration, following the conclusion of her gymnastics career.

The fundraiser for Retton's medical expenses quickly exceeded its $50,000 goal, with nearly 460,000 raised as of October 30.

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