Whoopi Goldberg’s doctors reveal she had a 1 in 3 chance of dying during pneumonia battle

Dr. Rodriguez said Goldberg was "gasping for air" prior to being hospitalized.

May 20, 2019, 3:29 PM

Doctors for Whoopi Goldberg, the Oscar-winning co-host of “The View,” revealed Monday that the star had a 1 in 3 chance of dying during her bout with a severe case of pneumonia earlier this year.

Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, her primary physician, said he could "barely understand what she was saying" when Goldberg called him to report her condition.

Rodriguez joined Goldberg and pulmonologist Martin Greenberg on Monday morning's show to share the story of how close Goldberg was to death's door during her battle with double pneumonia.

Goldberg said that she had felt "sick for a while" since at least November 2018, and it "kept going" until Donald Trump's State of the Union Address.

"This can't be the only reason I'm feeling sick," Goldberg said she thought to herself while watching the president on television.

Eventually Goldberg got on the phone with Dr. Rodriguez, who said he could barely understand her because her teeth were chattering from her uncontrollable shivering.

"She was gasping for air" prior to going to the hospital, Dr. Rodriguez said.

When Goldberg told her doctor she was unable to walk and wanted to go to sleep, Dr. Rodriguez knew "it sounded very serious," he said.

"She couldn't breathe," the doctor said. "Her teeth were chattering, she was obviously in what we call rigors," which he described as an episode of shaking chills.

Dr. Rodriguez said he "tried not to sound scared" on the phone with Goldberg, but he "was afraid she wasn't going to wake up."

"Is she really now just tired, or is she going to become unconscious and this is it?" Dr. Rodriguez said about his concern over Goldberg's condition before she was hospitalized.

"I wanted her talking [on the phone]. I was telling her bad jokes. I am telling Whoopi Goldberg jokes -- that's how serious it was," he emphasized.

Dr. Greenberg, who treated Goldberg during her hospitalization, said “she was in a bad way” when he first examined her.

Taking her high fever, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and low oxygen levels into account, Dr. Greenberg said she had a 1 in 3 chance of dying when she was first admitted.

“It was all hands on deck,” he said.

Dr. Martin Greenberg stands next to Whoopi Goldberg holding the fluid drained from her lungs during her battle with double pneumonia and sepsis.
Courtesy of Dr. Jorge Rodriguez

Dr. Greenberg said he had to drain Goldberg's lungs twice while she was hospitalized.

After the first drainage, Goldberg had a short period of improvement before her lungs quickly filled up again. This time, a radiologist inserted a lung drainage tube.

If the fluid hadn't cleared Goldberg would have had to undergo surgery, Dr. Rodriguez said.

"I was supposed to present," Goldberg said of the internet conspiracy theory that her absence was because she was secretly hosting the Oscars. "What was really happening was, suddenly I couldn't breath for the first time."

A comparison of Whoopi Goldberg's healthy and unhealthy lung scans during her battle with double pneumonia and sepsis.
Courtesy of Dr. Greenberg

After Goldberg was discharged from the hospital, her lungs were "all better," Dr. Greenberg said. When she was first admitted to the hospital, her right lung was unable to fill with air because of the space taken up by the fluid.

"The crazy thing is people don't take this seriously. They don't take pneumonia seriously, and you have to," Goldberg said, acknowledging that was her problem as well. "I just [tried to] fight through it, and you can't do that. It will kill you."

"Inactivity, not doing anything, not checking, will kill you," she stressed. "So get your ego together and say, 'Yeah, I'm going to the doctor because I don't feel good.' It's OK to go to the doctor because you don't feel good."

Dr. Rodriguez said that in his experience, more often than not "women come in the sickest" compared to men. "I think it's because women are used to taking care of everybody else," he said. "And then they put themselves last."

"The key thing to also take away from this is, you have to advocate for yourself and have someone there advocating for you," Dr. Greenberg added.

Although Goldberg isn't doing "half of the stuff" in her work that she was doing previously, she said that having "slowed it down" means she is feeling good.

Goldberg admitted that she isn't the best at resting, but she's getting better.

"I don't want to ever do this again," she said.

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