Lucky to be alive. Emilia Clarke secretly suffered two terrifying brain aneurysms during the early seasons of Game of Thrones — and she is finally ready to break her silence on the life-threatening ailments.
Clarke, now 32, told The New Yorker in an essay published on Thursday, March 21, that she first knew something was wrong during a workout in February 2011, just weeks after she finishing filming the first season of the HBO hit series. “My trainer had me get into the plank position and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain,” she recalled. “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.”
The Me Before You actress was rushed to the hospital via ambulance and was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, “a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.” Clarke had to undergo a “minimally invasive” type of brain surgery called “endovascular coiling,” where surgeons sealed off the aneurysm using a wire that was inserted into one of her femoral arteries in her groin.
“When I woke, the pain was unbearable. I had no idea where I was,” the British star explained. “My field of vision was constricted.”
While Clarke slowly recovered from the procedure, she later suffered a condition called aphasia, which caused her to forget her name. She noted, “My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke, but now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. I’d never experienced fear like that — a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.”
The former Broadway star admitted that she “asked the medical staff to let [her] die” because she was so frightened that she would never recover fully and therefore couldn’t act. Fortunately, the aphasia passed in a week and she was eventually discharged from the hospital one month after she was admitted.
Clarke quickly jumped back into filming Game of Thrones season 2, but she “struggled.” She revealed, “Season 2 would be my worst. I didn’t know what [my character] Daenerys was doing. If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”
Two years later, the actress went in for a routine brain scan in New York City and the doctors told her they had to “take care” of a second brain aneurysm using the same procedure as the first. Unfortunately, the surgery was not successful and medics had to do another procedure directly through her skull.
“The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery,” Clarke said. “I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced.”
The Solo: A Star Wars Story star remained hospitalized for a month and suffered “terrible … panic attacks” as a result of her condition. She emotionally explained, “[I was] convinced that I wasn’t going to live.”
Now, Clarke says she has “healed beyond [her] most unreasonable hopes” and is helping others who have suffered brain injuries recover through a charity called SameYou. She gushed, “I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next.”
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