Heather O'Rourke (December 27, 1975 – February 1, 1988) was an American child actress who played Carol Anne Freeling in the Poltergeist film trilogy and made several television guest appearances.
O'Rourke became ill in early 1987 and was misdiagnosed by Kaiser Permanente Hospital as having Crohn's disease. She was prescribed medicine to treat the Crohn's, which allegedly "puffed up [her] cheeks." On January 31, 1988, O'Rourke suddenly became ill again, vomiting and unable to keep anything down. The next morning she collapsed while preparing to leave for the hospital and her stepfather called paramedics. O'Rourke suffered a cardiac arrest en route to the hospital, and after resuscitation was airlifted by helicopter to Children's Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, where she died later that afternoon.
Speaking to reporters, O'Rourke's manager David Wardlow initially announced that it was believed O'Rourke died of influenza. However, hospital spokesman Vincent Bond announced that O'Rourke died during surgery to repair an acute bowel obstruction (caused by congenital stenosis of the intestine) complicated by septic shock; this report was corroborated by the San Diego County coroner's office on February 3, two days after her death. Later reports changed the specific cause of death to cardiac arrest caused by septic shock brought on by the intestinal stenosis.
O'Rourke was interred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery on February 5, 1988. Mourners included Henry Winkler, Linda Purl, and Rick Schroder.