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Rue McClanahan Was ‘At Death’s Door’ After Rare Respiratory Illness

Rue McClanahan was known for playing sassy Southern belle Blanche Devereaux on sitcom The Golden Girls, but behind her cheery appearance existed a life plagued with heartbreak, disease and near-death experiences.

During her sad last years, the actress suffered a series of ailments which ultimately led to a fatal stroke in 2010. Mysteriously, however, McClanahan was taking a powerful medication specifically designed to prevent blood clots.

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Now, forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Hunter is speaking out on REELZ’ new docuseries Autopsy: Rue McClanahan, revealing new details about her scary past.

rue mcclanahan almost died rare respiratory illness pp
Rue McClanahan

“It appears that immediately after the surgery, Rue developed an extremely rare condition that is fatal in about 50 percent of cases. She had acute respiratory distress syndrome. ARDS occurs when the lungs become severely inflamed due to an infection or injury. In Rue’s case, it may have been caused by the stress on her body from the surgery,” says Hunter in a teaser.

“All of a sudden she was at death’s door. And it was really scary because I really thought at one point that I was gonna lose her,” recalls McClanahan’s son, Mark Bish.

“The post-surgery risk of stroke is short-term. Rue’s death occurred long after. And living without a gallbladder would not have caused her any lasting effects, so I can rule these out as contributing to her death,” adds Hunter. “But I’ve discovered something else in her medical history that’s extremely worrying. Rue suffered from a disease that kills over 40,000 Americans every year.”

Autopsy: Rue McClanahan airs Sunday February 17 at 8 ET / PT on REELZ.

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