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Mary Lou Retton speaks to NBC’s ‘Today’ about recent hospitalization


CHARLESTON — West Virginia native and Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton is opening up about her hospitalization in October when she was diagnosed with a rare form of pneumonia.

Retton, who will be 56 this month, joined her daughter Shayla Schrepfer for an exclusive interview Monday morning on NBC’s “Today,” telling anchor Hoda Kotb she “faced death in the eyes.”

The day before Retton went to the hospital, she got a manicure with her daughter. She was supposed to meet her family at a football game in Dallas the next day, but never showed up because she had collapsed on her bedroom floor.

“I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” Retton said. “I couldn’t breathe.”

Retton’s neighbor noticed her car door was left open and went inside to check on her.

“She came in the house. She knows my code, and saw me and found me. She pretty much saved my life. She said I was white and blue,” Retton said. “I don’t even remember it. I remember her coming in, but that’s pretty much it.”

Retton was then rushed to the emergency room where was diagnosed with pneumonia. She was only there for a few days before she was sent home.

“That’s when things took a turn,” Schrepfer said.

Retton’s oxygen levels were dangerously low and she was admitted to the ICU at a different, undisclosed hospital. She was tested for COVID-19, RSV and the flu, but those tests came back negative. X-rays of her lungs showed a white-out.

“You couldn’t even see her lungs,” Schrepfer said.

“I never had a lung issue in my life,” Retton added.

Retton’s medical team discussed putting her on life-support. Her daughters started telling her “It’s OK, mom, you can go” as they made plans for her potential death. Retton miraculously pulled through.

This came during a time Retton did not have health insurance.

“When COVID hit and after my divorce and all my pre-existing — I’ve had over 30 operations for orthopedic stuff — I couldn’t afford it,” she said.

Retton, a Fairmont native, is now out of the hospital and recovering at her home in Texas. She has health insurance and is breathing through an oxygen tube with her same contagious smile.

“Usually my interviews are ‘oh yeah, it felt great to win the Olympics,’ but this is different. This is serious and this is life. I am so grateful to be here. I am blessed to be here because there was a time where they were about to put me on life support,” she said.

Retton said doctors still don’t know exactly what her future holds. She’s taking it day-by-day with a positive attitude.

“I’m a fighter. I’m not going to give up. I have no idea what the future holds for me. I don’t know if I’m going to have lasting issues with my lungs. They don’t know. I wish I had answers, but I would never give up. It’s not in me,” she said.