Published Mar 21, 2019While Game of Thrones is set to return for its eighth and final season, one of the show's biggest stars has made a shocking confession. Emila Clarke — who plays show favourite Daenerys Targaryen — has revealed she suffered two life-threatening brain hemorrhages since the start of 2011 — the same year the HBO series launched the young actress into international stardom.
The reveal comes via a newly published first-person essay in The New Yorker called "A Battle for My Life," in which Clarke writes, "Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I've never told this story publicly, but now it's time."
The British actress goes on to write of discovering a "shooting, stabbing, constricting pain" in her skull during a workout session.
"Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room," Clarke writes. "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. For a few moments, I tried to will away the pain and the nausea. I said to myself, 'I will not be paralyzed.' I moved my fingers and toes to make sure that was true. To keep my memory alive, I tried to recall, among other things, some lines from Game of Thrones."
Clarke says that she was soon rushed to hospital, writing, "Finally, I was sent for an MRI, a brain scan. The diagnosis was quick and ominous: 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. As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients 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."
She continues: "I remember being told that I should sign a release form for surgery. Brain surgery? I was in the middle of my very busy life — I had no time for brain surgery. But, finally, I settled down and signed. And then I was unconscious. For the next three hours, surgeons went about repairing my brain. This would not be my last surgery, and it would not be the worst. I was twenty-four years old."
While in recovery, Clarke says a nurse asked if the actress could say her own name, with the GoT star saying she was unable to do so.
"My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. But now I couldn't remember it," Clarke writes. "Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic…I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn't recall my name."
As Clarke explains, she was suffering from a condition called aphasia, which eventually passed and allowed her to resume work on the TV series. But she was also met with a feeling of dread, as a second aneurysm on the other side of her brain had been detected, and it could "pop" anytime.
By 2013, the aneurysm was twice the size, forcing Clarke to once again undergo surgery — again successfully.
"The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery," Clarke writes. "I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced."
Clarke's moving essay comes alongside the announcement of her new charity organization, SameYou, which aims to improve neuro-recovery care for young adults who suffer brain injury or stroke, assisting them in their long and often costly road to recovery.
You can read Clarke's entire essay here.
As previously reported, the eighth and final season of Game of Thrones premieres on April 14.