‘The Donna Reed’ Star Shelley Fabares Once Experienced an Almost Fatal Health Scare

by Anna Dunn

The Donna Reed star Shelley Fabares once experienced a near-fatal health scare. Fabares played Mary, the teenaged daughter on the show. Additionally, Fabares starred in three movies alongside Elvis Presley. She’d go on to have a pretty active career in show business. But that career was complicated later in her life. The actress is also married to former M*A*S*H actor Mike Farrell.

In the 90s, Fabares had a really serious situation with her health. According to an article by Best Life doctors didn’t initially know what was wrong. That continued on for years until she finally got a life-saving liver transplant. The entire experience was life-changing for her.

She explained to InnerVIEWS with Ernie Manouse in 2011 that after getting so close to death, she’s actually less of a worrier now.

“When you get that close to death and you don’t die, you go, ‘Oh, okay, I did survive that. Maybe I can survive something else,” she said.

Not only does she discuss her own experiences with illness, but she’s also passionate about Alzheimer’s awareness because her mother had the disease.

During Her Illness the Former ‘The Donna Reed Show’ Star Wanted to Express Herself More

The near-death experience really put things in perspective for Shelley Fabares. While she was Ill, she decided to start experimenting with dying her hair in order to express herself. She explained her thought process. Especially why the fact that she was dying made her feel like she needed to do things she had always been told she couldn’t.

“This is the first time in my life since I was three years old—because that’s when I started working—that no one can say to me, ‘Oh, you can’t do that’ … It was almost hard to take in how liberating that was.” She said. , “No one can tell me I can’t do it and I’m dying, so if not now, when?”

She survived her illness but has kept the hairstyle and continues to be outspoken on what matters to her.

Being a child star, she didn’t have a lot of freedom when it came to dressing herself and styling herself how she wanted. But once she got older, she was able to let that go. The 77-year-old actress can often be spotted with vibrant pink streaks in her hair.

On top of her work on The Donna Reed Show, Fabares is known for her work on One Day at a Time, Coach, The Loveboat, The PracticeMork & Mindy, and The Canterville Ghost. Her last acting credit is a voice role for Superman: Brainiac Attacks in 2006. It doesn’t appear she’s done much acting since. But whatever she’s doing, it’s clear she’s trying to appreciate every single moment.