Emilia Clarke had two brain aneurysms while filming Game of Thrones

If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.

By Rebecca Sullivan
For the past eight years, the world has watched British actress Emilia Clarke's star rise as she captured our hearts with her incredible performance as Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones.
Now as the insanely popular HBO prepares to enter its eighth and final season next month, Clarke has written a heartbreaking essay detailing how she filmed the first two seasons of the show while she had two massive brain aneurysms and a life-threatening surgery.
In an essay penned for The New Yorker titled A Battle for My Life, the now 32-year-old explained how she had her first brain aneurysm when she had just finished filming Season 1 of Game of Thrones, at age 24.
The show first hit our screens in April 2011 and just two months beforehand, Emilia was hospitalised with her first aneurysm.
She was getting ready to workout with her personal trainer in a London gym, when she started to feel a bad headache coming on.
"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," Emila wrote.
"Then my trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately 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. 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 Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. (Image: HBO)
An ambulance was called and Emilia was rushed to hospital. An MRI revealed she had a "subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. I'd had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture."
She would later learn that about a third of patients to have this type of aneurysm die immediately, or soon after. For those who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed.
"If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees," Emilia wrote in her essay.
She underwent a three hour "minimally invasive" surgery to seal the aneurysm. Upon waking, a nurse asked her to state her full name.
"I couldn't remember it," she wrote.
"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."
Emilia on the red carpet at the Oscars this year. (Image: Getty)
At the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar party. (Image: Getty)
Emilia spent weeks in hospital recovering. eventually her speech returned and she "went back to my life".
But she was still in constant pain and had to soldier on all through filming of Game Of Thrones Season 2.
"I was often so woozy, so weak, that I thought I was going to die," she wrote.
She "sipped on morphine" in between interviews during a London publicity tour as she experienced the "worst exhaustion I'd ever experienced."
"If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die," she wrote.
With fellow Game of Thrones star Kit Harington. (Image: Getty)
After her first surgery, she had been told that there was a smaller aneurysm on the other side of her brain that could "pop at any time."
But a regular brain scan in 2013 revealed it had had doubled in size and doctors said she needed surgery immediately.
She was terrified that the surgery would rid her of her memory and her ability to speak, thereby ending her acting career. Most of all, she was afraid to die.
"When they woke me, I was screaming in pain. The procedure had failed," she wrote.
"I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn't operate again. This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way—through my skull. And the operation had to happen immediately."
She woke up in searing pain, with bits of her skull replaced by titanium and a drain coming out of her head.
As well as the fear that she would never fully recover, the A-list actress was afraid that her very private health battle would become public.
One American journalist got wind of the story and asked about it in an interview, but Emilia denied everything.
Watch Emilia Clarke speaking the Dothraki language on Game of Thrones
Now, she is "at a hundred per cent' and ready to share her story.
As part of that, she's created a charity called SameYou, which "aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke."
And she's encouraging other young people to share their experiences with brain injuries online.
You can share your story with the hashtag #SameYouCharity and #SameYouRecovery.

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