Anne Heche's Cause Of Death Explained

Actress Anne Heche, star of "Donnie Brasco," "Wag the Dog," and "Six Days, Seven Nights," died on Friday, seven days after a serious car crash on August 5, which left her in critical condition and a coma (via CNN). Heche was 53. Her death was confirmed by her family, who announced that she had been taken off of life support (via The Guardian). She is survived by her two sons, Atlas Heche Tupper and Homer Laffoon (per Fox News).

Although Heche gained early acclaim for her roles in the soap opera "Another World," "An Ambush of Ghosts," and "Donnie Brasco." She started garnering attention on Broadway in 2002 and soon won her first Emmy for Gracie's Choice Award in 2004. She further gained celebrity prominence when she began dating Ellen DeGeneres in 1997, however the couple would eventually break up and Heche would become hospitalized shortly after for mental health challenges. Her 2001 memoir, "Call Me Crazy," documented her lifelong struggles, according to Biography. In 2006, she was able to land her own series, "Men in Trees," and continued landing roles on television series thereafter and recently starred in "The Brave," a military drama on NBC.

However, despite her success, it seems her mental health challenges, including a difficult childhood, remained constant throughout her life. In a 2001 interview with Barbara Walters, she said that she had struggled for more than 31 years with mental illness after being sexually abused by her father (via ABC News).

Details about the car crash

According to KTLA, Heche's car sped through an intersection and into a house in Los Angeles. A neighbor told Fox News that he saw Heche's car speeding by his home before the crash. When he went to the crash scene, he said that Heche was still conscious. The car and the house were engulfed in flames, which took firefighters more than an hour to extinguish. Firefighters couldn't get her out of the car until the fire was contained.

Los Angeles Police told CNN on Wednesday that she was under investigation for a possible DUI and investigators were waiting for the results from a blood sample taken from Heche at the scene. On Thursday, it was confirmed that there were drugs in her system when the crash occurred (per Today).

Although Heche had initially been expected to recover, she slipped into a coma with significant injuries to her lungs, according to the Associated Press. She was scheduled for surgery on August 9. On Thursday, a spokesperson for the family shared that Heche had suffered an "anoxic" brain injury (via NBC News). "It has long been her choice to donate her organs and she is being kept on life support to determine if any are viable," the spokesperson said. An anoxic brain injury occurs when the brain is cut off from its oxygen supply, causing brain cells to die, according to Today. This type of injury usually results in permanent brain damage or death.

Heche's struggles with mental illness

According to ABC News, Heche struggled with her father's sexual abuse for many years. She said she used sex and drugs to escape her feelings of shame. In a statement to ABC, the star revealed, "I drank. I smoked. I did drugs. I had sex with people. I did anything I could to get the shame out of my life." Acting also allowed her to live a different life, and she even had an alternate personality in which she believed she was an incarnation of God.

Although her relationship with DeGeneres put her in the spotlight, it may not have been for the best. She told ABC News that she still struggled with her sanity and it wasn't until her breakup with DeGeneres in 2000 that her mental illness peaked. She found herself wandering through neighborhoods in Fresno, California, hearing voices and looking for a spaceship. In 2001, she told Larry King on CNN that episode was her signal to work on her mental health. After her hospitalization, she met and married videographer Coley Laffoon, with whom she would have her first son, Homer in 2002. She would later be linked to her co-star in "Men in Trees," James Tupper, according to Biography. Tupper and Heche share a son, Atlas (per Fox News). Heche had most recently appeared in "The Vanished" and "13 Minutes," and several other of her works are currently in post-production, according to IMDB.

Her recent podcast gained attention

While many mourn the loss of Anne Heche, questions abound regarding the accident. Some have even tried to gather clues from one of her recent podcasts she starred in alongside her best friend, Heather Duffy, called "Better Together with Anne Heche and Heather Duffy" (via Fox News). 

During a podcast episode that was released right before the crash, ET reported that Heche herself had stated she'd been drinking vodka and had been having "a very bad day." Although the podcast was released the day of the crash, the producer Ryan Tillotson told ET that the podcast had likely been recorded beforehand. He said in a statement, "The episode was recorded on the Tuesday before the episode was released, and has been removed due to inaccurate reporting. Any reports that she recorded that episode on the day of the accident are false."