Mary Lou Retton Nearly Died, and Now She’s Opening up about ‘Facing Death in the Eyes’

God Updates

God Updates
Updated Jan 15, 2024

In October 2023, renowned gymnast and Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton nearly died. In fact, at one point, her daughters stood over her at the hospital praying as they said their goodbyes.

Now, Mary Lou is sharing the details of her miraculous survival. And you can see God at work in so many places!

Many likely remember Mary Lou Retton from the 1984 Summer Olympics. It’s there she became a star, winning a gold, two silvers, and two bronzes, including the individual all-around title. Mary Lou was the first American woman to win the all-around title.

Though those days were far behind the 55-year-old former athlete, Mary Lou remained healthy and strong through most of her life. However, all of that took an unexpected turn in 2023.

Former Gymnast Mary Lou Retton Nearly Died

The first sign of trouble came while Mary Lou Retton was out getting her nails done with her oldest daughter, Shayla Schrepfer. She was unexplainably out of breath and felt very tired.

“I just can’t keep my eyes open. I am so tired,” she said during the nail appointment.

Set to turn 56 in a few months, Mary Lou chalked it up to her age. But things were about to take a serious turn.

The very next day, Mary Lou was supposed to meet two of her daughters at a football game two hours from her home. But she never showed up. Instead, she lay helpless on her bedroom floor, struggling to breathe, unable to get up or call for help.

“I didn't know what was wrong with me,” she recalled.

Mary Lou Retton could have easily died had no one found her in time. But thankfully, God already had an angel on their way to help!

A neighbor happened to notice the door of Mary Lou’s car hanging open. And the concerned woman made her way over to Mary Lou’s house to tell her. Instead, she found something shocking.

“She came in the house,” Mary Lou recalled. “She knows my code and saw me and found me. And Magda pretty much saved my life.”

A Miraculous Change

After her panicked neighbor called for help, paramedics rushed Mary Lou Retton to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia but then sent her home after just a few days. Soon after, Shayla found her mother nearly unresponsive.

This time, they went to a different hospital. There, doctors could not determine the source of the pneumonia. Mary Lou tested negative for Covid-19, the flu and RSV. But her condition was so serious the doctors doubted she’d survive the night.

Shayla and her sister, McKenna, placed their hands on their mother and began praying. They truly believed their mom was dying and consoled her, telling her it was ok to leave for Heaven. But the Lord determined it wasn’t her time yet!

Doctors came up with one more idea to try. They decided to pump high-flow oxygen through her nose. And that’s when something miraculous happened!

Mary Lou Retton could have died, but she didn’t. Not only did she survive the night, but she kept surviving. And she started recovering. But now she and her family faced a new challenge.

Mary Lou Retton No Health Insurance

As a former Olympian and household name, many would never imagine Mary Lou Retton as having no health insurance. But that was exactly the case.

“How is that possible?” many people wondered.

Competing in the Olympics as a professional athlete takes its toll on a person’s body. Before her pneumonia battle, Mary Lou Retton has had more than 30 orthopedic surgeries over the years. The former athlete explained that between her preexisting medical procedures and divorce, she couldn’t afford it.

“That’s the bottom line — I couldn’t afford it,” she said.

As she fought for her life in the ICU, Mary Lou Retton’s daughters turned to social media to ask for prayers. They also set up a GoFundMe to help their mom.

“We were just thinking, ‘If she pulls through, the last thing we want her to have to think about is paying off these bills,” the gymnast’s daughter, Shayla, explained.

The wave of support that poured in is still amazing for them and their mother today!

A New Perspective On Life

As prayers poured in, Mary Lou Retton kept getting stronger. And her oxygen numbers kept getting better. Finally, she was ready to go home, where she was able to enjoy the Christmas season and the end of 2023 with her family.

Mary Lou still relies on an oxygen tank to help her breathe. And she’s still got more recovering to do. But she’s alive — something that didn’t seem possible during the darkest moments of her health battle with a rare, life-threatening form of pneumonia.

“It's going to be a really long road. I don't know how long I'll indefinitely need the oxygen. But you have no idea how blessed and how grateful I was for this holiday season,” she said.

And it’s not just her second chance at life that humbled Mary Lou. It’s the incredible wave of love and prayers that washed over her in her time of need.

“I just thought I was a washed-up, old athlete,” she explained. “But the love, it just… it touched me.”

Now, Mary Lou Retton is determined to make the most of each day. And even though she has no idea what the future holds, she charges forward with optimism and gratitude.

“I mean when you face death in the eyes… I have so much to look forward to,” she said, her voice filled with emotion.

“Take heart and be strong; have no fear and do not be troubled; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” Joshua 1:9

Photo Courtesy: 'Mary Lou Retton says she faced 'death in the eyes' while in ICU'/TODAY via YouTube/1/15/24 @6pm
Video Courtesy: TODAY via YouTube
Originally published on GodUpdates. Used with permission.

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