Emilia Clarke reveals she suffered two aneurisms that almost killed her

Catriona Harvey-Jenner
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Cosmopolitan

Game of Thrones atcor Emilia Clarke has revealed she almost died in 2011 as a result of a brain aneurism... and then again in 2013, of the same thing. Opening up in a piece for The New York Times about the health issues she's never talked about publicly, Emilia wrote: "now it’s time."

The article detailed how Emilia, at just 24-years-old, having finished filming the first series of her big break, Game of Thrones, collapsed while working out at a gym in North London. Ignoring a bad headache, Emilia persisted with the workout - "I was a television actor now, after all, and that is what television actors do". But eventually, she was struck with a pain that felt as though an "elastic band were squeezing my brain".

"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," she wrote.

The young actor was rushed to hospital, where an MRI scan revealed she had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-endangering type of stroke caused by bleeding in the brain as a result of an aneurism. With the chances of survival without lifelong deficits being relatively low, Emilia was rushed into surgery in a bid to save her life.

The surgery was a success, but she was jarred when, two weeks later, she was unable to recall her own name.

"A nurse woke me and, as part of a series of cognitive exercises, she said, 'What’s your name?' 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," wrote Emilia.

"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."

Photo credit: HBO

During the initial surgery, doctors had discovered another, smaller, aneurism on the other side of Emilia's brain. It could "pop" at any time, doctors warned, and she continued to have scans to monitor it in the months and years that followed. In 2013, having finished three seasons of Game of Thrones and now living in New York, Emilia was horrified to find out her other aneurism had doubled in size during a routine scan.

Doctors ordered immediate surgery - the risk of the aneurism rupturing was too high, they warned - and Emilia went in for what she believed would be a routine two-hour operation. But while in theatre, the actor, now 26, suffered a second, "massive" bleed on the brain.

"Doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn’t operate again," wrote Emilia.

This time, the surgery was more invasive. Doctors had to cut through her skull, so recovery was longer. Emilia Clarke recalls the days that followed surgery as being so dark, with anxiety and panic attacks, that her mind has all-but blocked them out. Despite this, weeks after her surgery, having recovered well, the Game of Thrones star appeared at Comic-Con in San Diego in a bid to continue hiding her worrying health issues from the outside world.

Photo credit: Getty Images

But now, after having kept quiet for so many years, Emilia is letting the public in to her experience for a positive cause. She has set up a charity called SameYou, which aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and strokes, so she can help those who may not be so fortunate in the level of care they receive.

"In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes," said Emilia. "I am now at a hundred per cent."

Read Emilia Clarke's full essay in The New York Times here.

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