Emilia Clarke suffered two brain aneurysms while starring in ‘GOT’ beating the odds of a condition that only a third of people survive. Of those who do live, only a third do so without a disability.
Emilia Clarke, 32, has revealed that she suffered not one, but two brain aneurysms while she was starring in one of TV’s biggest hit shows. The Game of Thrones actress, who played Daenerys Targaryen (aka the Mother of Dragons) on the HBO series is finally speaking out about how she cheated death and permanent brain damage. Emilia penned a March 21 essay for The New Yorker revealing that she is finally opening up now that the show is over, ahead of the premiere of its eighth and final season.
However, shockingly, Emilia said that she initially faced this health trauma at the beginning of 2011 just after she finished filming the first season of the show that made her a star. Emilia revealed that her first brain aneurysm occurred while she was in a North London gym while working with a personal trainer to relieve stress. “On the morning of February 11, 2011, I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym in Crouch End, North London, when I started to feel a bad headache coming on,” she wrote. “I was so fatigued that I could barely put on my sneakers. When I started my workout, I had to force myself through the first few exercises.”
Emilia noted that, even when she was doing a plank during her workout she “felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain.” “I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t,” she wrote. “I told my trainer I had to take a break. Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room. I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain – shooting, stabbing, constricting pain – was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.”
Emilia was rushed to the nearby Whittington Hospital where an MRI, a brain scan, was performed and she was diagnosed with having had “a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.” She added, “I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture.”
Emilia later learned how lucky she was to be alive, because a third of SAH patients die after having an aneurysm. Of those who do survive, only a third do so without suffering permanent neurological deficits. Thankfully, Emilia survived a three-hour brain surgery during which doctors sealed off the aneurysm. However, when she first woke up, the actress couldn’t even recite her full name – Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. “Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth,” she wrote.
Luckily Emilia appeared to make a full recovery even though doctors told her that there was a smaller aneurysm on the other side of her brain. That too could “’pop’ at any time.” It was in 2013, while she was in New York appearing in a Broadway show, that a brain scan revealed that the second aneurysm had “doubled in size.” A second surgery left her “screaming in pain” when she woke up and she had to another, more invasive operation that involved accessing her brain through her skull.
“I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head,” Emilia wrote. “Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.” The actress went on to have “terrible anxiety” and “panic attacks,” admitting that she felt like a “shell” of herself. However, not only did the Brit survive and emerge without a disability, she did so while working and keeping her condition under wraps.
The actress revealed that she has decided to speak out to raise awareness in the U.S. and the U.K. about SAH. Emilia is now the face of the Same You charity. The goal is to “provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.” On the charity’s website she is quoted as a saying, “I want to break the silence on brain injury.”
Emilia is not the only GOT star to reveal they have faced health issues while filming the hit show. In a March 20 interview with Variety Kit Harington, the 32-year-old actor who played Jon Snow, admitted that he had therapy to cope with the anxiety he experienced while being part of the beloved series.