Emilia Clarke has revealed the potentially fatal health scares she suffered during her time on Game of Thrones.
Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen on the hit show, has opened up about surviving a life-threatening stroke which she had previously kept under wraps.
The actress suffered a potentially fatal brain haemorrhage in 2010 before having major surgery that left her unable to recall her own name. She lived with a time-bomb aneurysm on her brain for another three years before again suffering a bleed in her brain. Doctors immediately operated by opening up her skull.
She said the first happened after a gym session in North London in 2011, just after wrapping up season one of Game of Thrones. After beginning to feel a headache, her condition quickly deteriorated.
In an essay in The New Yorker, Clarke explained: “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.”
Clarke’s diagnosis was a life-threatening type of stroke, a subarachnoid haemorrhage, caused be bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.
After waking up from surgery, the actress was unable to say her own name – she was diagnosed with aphasia, an inability to speak.
This sent Emilia into a dark spiral, fearing she’d never be able to speak for the rest of her life.
“In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die,” she said. “My job-my entire dream of what my life would be-centred on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”
After making a recover, Emilia returned to filming Game of Thrones but in between seasons she was rushed into surgery once again, after doctors noticed a growth on one side of her brain had doubled in size.
This first surgery didn’t work and Clarke woke up in immense pain, she was readmitted to surgery immediately but this time the procedure wouldn’t be minimally invasive.
“When they woke me, I was screaming in pain. The procedure had failed. 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”
Thankfully this procedure was more successful the road ahead looks much brighter for the actress.
She said: “After keeping quiet all these years, I’m telling you the truth in full. Please believe me: I know that I am hardly unique, hardly alone.
“In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred per cent.”
Since then, Clarke has launched SameYou, a charity aimed at supported young people with brain injuries, and help them to access resources. She said she wants to break her silence over her near-fatal brain injuries to help others who are suffering from the “invisible illness”.
“I know from personal experience that the impact of brain injury is shattering,” Clarke said. “Recovery is long-term and rehabilitation can be difficult to access. Brain injury can be an invisible illness and the subject is often taboo. We must help young adults take control of their recovery and allow them to open up without fear of stigma or shame.”