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Oprah Winfrey reveals serious bout with pneumonia

Oprah Winfrey promotes her partnership with Apple on

Oprah Winfrey promotes her partnership with Apple on the Sept. 23 episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Credit: Warner Bros. / Michael Rozman

Oprah Winfrey says she was cleared only Sunday of a serious bout with pneumonia, and is urging people to get flu and pneumonia vaccinations.

"I just got cleared yesterday," the media mogul, 65, said Monday on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." "I came back from overseas and I thought I had a cold. But it wasn't a cold. I ended up in the emergency room, and they said, 'You have pneumonia.' And I go home with pneumonia, and pneumonia's nothing to play with," she told the host. "It is very serious.” And even though she was on antibiotics for a week, "The antibiotics weren't working."

When Winfrey returned for another CT scan, she was told the pneumonia had progressed and she needed to see a lung specialist, whom she referred to by only one initial as Dr. K. "I go in and … I said, 'Look, I've got a little rattling.' He puts a stethoscope here," Winfrey said, indicating her sternum, "and I see the 'Oh ... [expletive]' face. It is like, 'Oh. My. … Something's wrong with you.' And I can see it — he didn't hide it. … He immediately said, 'You must cancel everything.' "

Winfrey said she had to process this advice. "I've never canceled anything in my life," she told DeGeneres. "I work when I'm sick. I work all the time when I [am] sick. He goes, 'You must cancel everything. You cannot fly for a month.' And then he had 18 vials of blood drawn. And so I thought, 'Ooh, this must be very serious.' "

Fortunately, "I went back in a week and I was better. He [had] called me every day to make sure I was using the inhaler and taking the right antibiotics. And when I walked in and I was better, he thanked me three times for getting better," she said to studio-audience chuckles. He also asked for a hug. "And I could tell that he was like, 'Not on my watch is this going to happen.' "

Winfrey advised viewers, "Don't play with it, and get your flu shots and get your pneumonia shots. It's nothing to play with. It takes people out."

Also Monday, Winfrey announced she had chosen "The Water Dancer," the first novel by memoirist and essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates, to inaugurate her new book-club partnership with Apple.

"I was just as surprised as anybody," Coates, who turns 44 later this month, told The Associated Press of getting the phone call from Winfrey relaying the news. He added that, "I think the most encouraging part was that she's a reader. It was clear from the conversation that she's a reader. This is not a marketing ploy. There's nothing to be cynical about."

Winfrey will interview Coates before a live audience at the Apple Carnegie Library in Washington, D.C., for a conversation that will air Nov. 1 on the new streaming service Apple TV+. The novel, begun a decade ago, chronicles a slave who joins the Underground Railroad.

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