Mary Lou Retton postage stamp
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
October 17, 2023 ·  4 min read

Olympic Legend Mary Lou Retton Can’t ‘Breathe on Her Own’ – Her Daughter Asks for Help

Written By: Chantel Brink

Mary Lou Retton is currently facing a life-threatening situation, and her daughter, McKenna Kelley, has reached out to the public. She is asking for prayers and financial support to help cover the hospital fees for the legendary Olympian. Retton has been in intensive care for the last week.

Notably, Retton earned a historic milestone as the first American woman to secure a gold medal in gymnastics during her performance at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Her remarkable achievements also earned her a well-deserved place in the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1997.

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Mary Lou Retton’s daughter spoke out

Kelley revealed that her “exceptional mother” was admitted to the hospital due to a rare form of pneumonia and is currently reliant on mechanical ventilation for breathing. It’s important to note that the former athlete does not possess any health insurance coverage. “She is not able to breathe on her own,” Kelley writes.

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!” She continued.

On Wednesday, with the ongoing influx of donations for her mother, Kelley took to Instagram once more. This time, she expressed her heartfelt gratitude to everyone for their unwavering support as Retton continues her battle with the assistance of dedicated medical professionals. “My sisters Skyla, Shayla, Emma and I would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support for our Mom. Mom is in the ICU and continues to fight. She is getting incredible medical care! Thank you to all the doctors and nurses! We ask for continued prayers and positive thoughts for our mom.”

Through the support of more than 3,000 donors on a crowdfunding forum, Kelley, representing her siblings, has successfully amassed nearly $150,000 by Wednesday, October 11, 2023. Her initial fundraising goal had been set at $50,000.

Retton has openly discussed her health challenges

Including having dealt with dysplasia since birth, which weakened her bones. And the additional calcium depletion that occurred after giving birth to four children. In her thirties, Retton began to experience chronic pain and stiffness. This hindered her ability to engage in physical activities with her children.

Her diagnosis of what she initially considered an ailment typical of older individuals led her into a period of depression. “My whole life was based on my physicality—what I could physically do. It was performance-based. And that went away with arthritis.

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It’s been an uphill journey for May Lou Retton

Mary Lou Retton’s health journey included undergoing two hip replacement surgeries. She has since been dedicated to challenging the stigma around these procedures. The celebrated athlete advocates for the use of vitamins, and supplements, and the importance of maintaining a healthy diet.

In a 2016 article for Women’s World, she motivated those hesitant about embracing an active lifestyle to initiate a walking program. She underscored that the primary goal was not weight loss but rather an emphasis on achieving overall well-being through physical activity.

A beloved icon for many around the world

Image Credit: NBC News

During the ’80s and ’90s, Mary Lou Retton’s level of fame paralleled that of today’s gymnastic stars like Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Gabby Douglas. She holds a deep respect for the strict demands placed on modern gymnasts who compete at the highest levels.

Born on January 24, 1968, and raised in Fairmont, West Virginia, Retton’s dreams to become a champion were ignited by the remarkable performance of Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

Despite facing trouble, such as undergoing emergency knee surgery just five weeks before the 1984 Olympics, Retton made a remarkable recovery. Securing a gold medal in the individual all-around competition with perfect 10s in the floor and vault events.

She emerged from the Games with the most medals, including a silver in the team event, another silver in the vault, and two bronze medals in the uneven bars and floor exercises. Following her retirement from competitive gymnastics, Retton took on roles as a voice for a cereal company and worked in television.

Keep Reading: Just 10 Months After Giving Birth, This Athlete Breaks One of Usain Bolt’s Records


  1. Mary Lou Retton is hospitalized with pneumonia, unable to breathe on her own, daughter says.” LA Times. Christi Carras. October 10, 2023
  2. Olympic icon Mary Lou Retton ‘continues to fight’ in ICU as fundraiser for her medical expenses shatters goal.” CBS Olympics. Austin Nivison. October 11, 2023