Mary Lou Retton Responds to Backlash of Her Medical Bill Fundraiser

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Olympic Gymnast Mary Lou Retton Addresses Health Battle

Mary Lou Retton thinks her family deserves a gold medal. 

The Olympian defended her daughters’ decision to start a crowdsourcing fund to pay for the medical bills she accrued while fighting a rare form of pneumonia, which she was hospitalized with in October. 

“They didn’t deserve that,” Mary Lou told Entertainment Tonight in an interview published May 22. “They were just trying to take care of me. I don’t care about the naysayers. There are trolls everywhere. It’s what makes us America. Everybody’s got an opinion, but it is what it is.”

The former athlete—who shares daughters Shayla, 28, McKenna, 26, Skyla, 23, and Emma, 21, with ex-husband Shannon Kelley—went on to explain that she struggled to afford her mounting medical bills due to the impact of COVID-19 on her job as a public speaker and the cost of her 2018 divorce. 

“I was in the ICU for a month, like, the bills were and are still coming in,” she continued. “You can’t imagine from ambulance bills to everything.” 

Insisting that all of the money went directly to her treatment, Mary Lou—who retired from gymnastics in 1986 after picking up Team USA’s first gold medal in the All-Around at the 1984 Olympics—added that she couldn’t have gotten through her condition without her daughters’ thoughtful actions. 

“You’re welcome to your opinion but you weren’t in that situation,” she argued. “My daughters stepped up to the plate, and they saved my life and all the love and support saved my life.”

Mary Lou’s defense of her family comes less than a year after her daughter McKenna asked for help with her mom’s ongoing health battle in an emotional message. 

Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for Buca, Inc.

“She is not able to breathe on her own,” the 26-year-old explained in a video shared to Instagram Oct. 10. “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.”

Sharing a link to a donation page, McKenna asked, “ANYTHING, absolutely anything, would be so helpful for my family and my mom.”

Over 10,000 donors wound up contributing to the fund, together raising nearly $500,000—an amount that left the family “overwhelmed.”

“We didn’t even realize that there’s so many people out there that love her just as much as we do,” daughter Shayla said in a video shared to her Instagram at the time, “And it’s been a really hard time for our family, so just seeing that people love her like that, and are showing her that support, it’s just meant the world to us and to her.”

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