“The doctor told me, ‘Listen, you’re not going anywhere tomorrow and you’re not going anywhere next week because you are really sick,” says Goldberg in the latest issue of PEOPLE. “‘You were this close to dying.’ ” The news came as a shock to Goldberg, 63. “I was like, ‘Really?’ I never thought of pneumonia as something that serious. In my mind I wasn’t that sick. I hope that this is a cautionary tale for people. You have to take the time to take care of yourself.”
According to Goldberg’s pulmonologist Dr. Martin Greenberg, she delayed seeking medical care for close to two months for prolonged symptoms including cough, weakness, shortness of breath and fatigue. “It all finally came to a head leading to her rapid decline and long hospital stay,” says Greenberg.
For more on Whoopi Goldberg’s health crisis pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Goldberg had to have her lungs drained twice via a procedure called thoracentesis, in which a needle is inserted into the space between the lungs and the chest wall to remove fluid. A catheter was then put in place to continuously remove fluid. After undergoing “aggressive” chest physical therapy, Goldberg says she feels 70 percent recovered, but progress is slow.
More than anything, she’s just happy she’s on the upswing. “I get winded going up stairs and I still can’t get on my treadmill,” she says. “Nobody wants to feel like they can’t do something, but your body says no sometimes. And that’s just fine. I never want to relapse so I’m okay taking the stairs easy. I don’t care about old-lady jokes. Bring them on!”