‘I’m So Blessed to Be Here’

“There was a time when they were about to put me on life support,” the former Olympian said about the rare form of pneumonia that hospitalized her last fall

<p>Eric McCandless via Getty</p> Mary Lou Retton

Eric McCandless via Getty

Mary Lou Retton

After a rare form of pneumonia sent Mary Lou Retton to the ICU last fall, the former Olympian is speaking out for the first time about the medical ordeal that left her “fighting for her life.”  

In a preview of an upcoming Today show interview with Hoda Kotb that aired on Sunday Today with Willie Geist, Mary Lou, 55, spoke about her continued recovery. (The full piece airs on Today Monday morning.)

First revealing that she is “on oxygen” as she sat beside daughter Shayla Kelley with a breathing apparatus supporting her, Mary Lou then noted that she is “very much” in a “vulnerable state,” as Kotb, 59, suggested, explaining, “I’m very private.”

“Usually my interviews are, ‘Oh, yeah, it felt great to win the Olympics,’ you know? This is serious and this is life,” she continued. “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.”

News of Mary Lou’s health battle first broke in October, when her daughter, McKenna Kelley, revealed that her mother was in a Houston-area hospital

“My amazing mom, Mary Lou, has a very rare form of pneumonia and is fighting for her life,” McKenna, 26, wrote in a message on a Spotfund fundraising page set up for Retton’s medical expenses, while also revealing that their mother “is not insured.”

Related: Mary Lou Retton Celebrates First Christmas Since Health Scare with Photo of Her Four Daughters

At the time, Mary Lou’s eldest daughter, Shayla, 28, said that her family’s priority was “the well-being of our mom” in a statement with PEOPLE.

During her time in the hospital, Mary Lou’s family had been “excited” by the former Olympic champion’s progress. However, Shayla later revealed that the gymnast’s road back to health had not been so straightforward. 

“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. So I just wanted to give an update there,” she shared, just over a week after Mary Lou’s health situation was first revealed.

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After a multi-week stay, Mary Lou was released from the Texas-based hospital, with McKenna sharing on Instagram that their mother was “HOME & in recovery mode.” She added: “We still have a long road of recovery ahead of us, but baby steps.”

About a week later, Mary Lou shared her first official update on her health and ongoing recovery. “I’m with family continuing to slowly recover and staying very positive as I know this recovery is a long and slow process,” she posted on Instagram. 

While she did not disclose any more details about what landed her in the hospital, she did say, “When the time is right, I will be sharing more information about my health issues.”

Mary Lou also added that she hoped to one day “help others who may face the same battle as me.”

Related: Mary Lou Retton Says She’s ‘Eternally Grateful’ in Thanksgiving Message After Health Scare

Since then, Mary Lou has only shared a few updates on the holidays, posting a lengthy heartfelt message on Instagram for Thanksgiving, and another one on Christmas

“As we gather to celebrate this Thanksgiving, my heart is overflowing with profound gratitude. I want to express how truly blessed and thankful I am to be slowly improving and to be home with my girls, especially after my time in the hospital,” she captioned a carousel of photos of her and her family. 

Mary Lou continued: “The love and support of my four amazing daughters have been a source of strength and inspiration throughout my journey. Their presence in my life is a testament to the incredible bonds of family.”

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