Mary Lou Retton’s Health: Everything to Know About Her Battle With Pneumonia & How She’s Doing Today

The former Olympian opened up about why she was uninsured before her scary battle with pneumonia in a new interview.

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Former Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton is opening up after battling a “rare” illness, which her daughter, McKenna Kelley, revealed in early October. Throughout her battle with penumonia, her daughters and her former Dancing With the Stars partner, Sasha Farber, gave fans updates along the way. By late October, Mary Lou’s daughters revealed that she had returned home from the hospital.

About two months after her battle with pneumonia, Mary Lou has been opening up about what the experience was like in an interview with Today on Monday, January 8. The former gymnast revealed that she was thankful to be alive following the hospitalization. “I’m so grateful to be here. I am blessed to be here, because there was a time when they were about to put me on life support,” she said.

To learn more about Mary Lou’s health scare, keep reading.  

Who Is Mary Lou Retton? 

Mary is one of the most iconic gymnasts in U.S. history. Having earned the nickname “America’s Sweetheart” in the 1980s, the West Virginia native won the gold medal for the women’s individual all-around competition in addition to two silver and two bronze medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. Mary was the first female American gymnast to win gold in the Olympics’ all-around competition. 

Two years later, Mary retired from the sport. However, she remained in the public eye by appearing in various films, such as Scrooged and episodes of Baywatch and Glee. She competed on DWTS in 2018 with Sasha as her dance partner.  

What Illness Does Mary Lou Retton Have? 

On October 10, Mary’s daughter, McKenna, took to her Instagram Stories to ask fans for financial assistance for her mother’s hospitalization. McKenna noted that the former Olympian does not have health insurance. 

“My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life,” McKenna revealed with a link to their SpotFund campaign. “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 is not insured.” 

McKenna continued, “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!” 

Sasha Farmer and Mary Lou Retton

How Is Mary Lou Retton’s Health Now? 

During an October 10 interview with Entertainment Tonight, Sasha said he has been in contact with his former partner and friend. 

“I’ve been talking to her today, and she’s fighting,” Sasha noted but revealed that Mary, “kind of wants to give up, but I’m sending her videos of her dancing and I’m telling her, ‘There’s only one Mary Lou Retton. You’ve got this!’” 

The pro dancer then recalled that Mary “was in L.A. [a few weeks] ago, and she wanted to meet up, [but] I had rehearsals, and I couldn’t. She was like, ‘Let me take you out for dinner,’ and I couldn’t go because I had rehearsals.” 

Though Sasha is worried, he insisted that the gold medalist is “a fighter” and is “going to be great.” 

“I know her very well, and she’s like family to me, and she’s a fighter. She’s strong,” Sasha concluded. 

On October 14, the gymnast’s daughters provided another update via a social media statement. “”We’re thrilled to share some uplifting updates! Mom’s progress is truly remarkable! Prayers have been felt and have been answered,” daughters Shayla and McKenna wrote.

“Although she remains in the ICU, her path to recovery is steadily unfolding. Her fighting spirit is truly shining! Her breathing is becoming stronger, and her reliance on machines is diminishing,” they explained. “Though it’s a lengthy journey, witnessing these improvements is incredibly heartening! She’s responding so well to treatments. Once more, we extend our heartfelt gratitude for your overwhelming love and support.”

Shayla gave another update on her mom in an Instagram post on Wednesday, October 18. While it had seemed like Mary was doing better, she said that her mom did face a few setbacks at the start of the week. “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,” she said.

Still, Shayla said that her mom was just tired, and was doing a little bit better on Wednesday than she had been earlier in the week. “She had a better day today, which is great,” she said. “She is really exhausted.”

On Monday, October 23, McKenna posted the best update yet, indicating that Mary Lou has finally made it home. “Mom is HOME & in recovery mode,” she wrote in part in the statement. “We still have a long road of recovery ahead of us, but baby steps. We are overwhelmed with the love and support from everyone. Grateful doesn’t scrape the surface of the posture of our hearts.”

Mary eventually broke her silence on the ordeal in a statement she shared via Instagram on October 30.

“I’m beyond blessed to have the opportunity to make this statement,” the former athlete began. “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.”

Mary ended her statement by noting,  “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.”

In the January 2024 Today interview, Mary opened up about how frightening the whole experience was, and she explained why she needed a fundraiser, because she couldn’t cover the healthcare costs. “When COVID hit and after my divorce, and all my pre-existing — I’ve had over 30 operations of orthopedic stuff — I couldn’t afford [insurance],” she said. “But who would even know that this was going to happen to me? That’s the bottom line, I couldn’t afford it.”

McKenna also revealed that the family had earned over $400,000 during the crowd-funding effort in an interview with USA TodayShe explained their reasoning behind the fundraiser. “This was not supposed to be a big media thing. … We didn’t even think about what this would turn into. It was simply four daughters who felt helpless who wanted to help their mom who knew that this would help take a burden off,” she said, and she admitted that any remaining money will be donated to charity.