O, No! Oprah Reveals a Deadly Health Scare—and Urges Us All to Take Care

Illustration for article titled O, No! Oprah Reveals a Deadly Health Scare—and Urges Us All to Take Care
Screenshot: EllenTube (YouTube)

As I write this, there seems to be something going around The Root’s virtual newsroom, as both News Editor Monique Judge and I are battling something wicked. Monique, being a much smarter person than I, scurried off to Urgent Care yesterday to address our very similar symptoms (albeit two time zones apart). I, being the more “grin and bear it” of the two of us, am just waiting for this bug to hopefully run its course (for the record, Monique was ultimately diagnosed with “a bug” as well).


But though I’m moving on my typical workaholic instincts about what’s happening with my body, I admit my approach may not be the wisest.

Oprah, a fellow workaholic who “never cancels anything” when she’s under the weather, found out the hard way that health is nothing to play with when what she thought was a post-travel cold turned out to be pneumonia—a life-threatening bout, as it turns out. As the mogul recently revealed to friend and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, when a week of antibiotics didn’t ease her symptoms—which included a “rattling” in her chest—she was sent to see a lung specialist.

“He puts a stethoscope [to my chest] and I see the ‘oh shit’ face,” Oprah recalled. “It is like, ‘Oh my—something’s wrong with you.’ I [could] see it; he didn’t hide it.”

For once, the “queen of all media” was forced to cancel everything for the sake of her health, including a mandate to avoid air travel for a month. She was also subjected to a battery of blood tests and prescribed a presumably stronger course of antibiotics, along with an inhaler.

“I thought, ‘this is pretty serious,’” said Oprah.

For those unfamiliar with the symptoms and causes of pneumonia, in its reporting of Oprah’s incident, Forbes humorously broke it down for us:

Pneumonia rhymes with ammonia or beefsteak begonia but isn’t just a single syndrome or disease. Instead, it is like the term “boy band” and encompasses many different types of conditions. The common denominator is that it is an infection affecting the alveoli of your lungs...

Think of these alveoli as the “airports” or “air” ports for these molecules...Trouble happens when these “airports” are invaded by microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, or fungi. These air sacs then may become inflamed and filled with fluid, pus, or other types of gunk. Inflammation and gunk, which is not a formal medical term, can be like bad weather at an airport, making it more difficult to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide. This, my friends, is what’s called pneumonia.


Thankfully, Oprah’s specialist hit the mark with her treatment, and a week later, the 65-year-old media maven was on the mend—which her doctor repeatedly thanked her for, even asking for a hug to celebrate.

“I could tell that he was like, ‘Not on my watch is this going to happen,’” she laughed.


Oprah had only been cleared to resume her hectic schedule the day before appearing on Ellen, where she announced a nine-city wellness tour in partnership with Weight Watchers, titled “202o Vision: Your Life In Focus.” The goal? To encourage us all to live our best lives—starting with taking better care of ourselves. Urging us all to stay up-to-date on our flu and pneumonia shots, Oprah reflected on her own health scare and how it’s further fueling her newest initiative.

“I’m telling you, it changed the way I look at wellness,” she told DeGeneres.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?



Yeah, if I was Oprah’s doctor, I would have been hugging and happy, too. I wouldn’t want to be the one on call if she died and I had to explain what happened to Stedman, Gayle and Ralph Angel.