32-year-old Emilia Clarke, best known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen
on the hit show, Game of Thrones, opened up this week about her near-death experiences. In a personal essay for The New Yorker, the star wrote about her health scares that began in 2011 with a distressing episode at the gym when she was just 24-years-old.
“I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym in Crouch End, North London, when I 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.”
Clarke went on to write that she later became severely ill in the locker room, nearly losing consciousness.
“The pain—shooting, stabbing, constricting pain—was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.”
Soon, a good Samaritan came to the actress’s aid, and she was then transported to the hospital. After an MRI, Clarke was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), more commonly known as an aneurysm. This is essentially when an artery ruptures, causing bleeding in the area surrounding the brain. According to the Brain Aneurysm Foundation, about 30,000 people in the United States will experience a brain aneurysm each year.
Clarke underwent immediate surgery and spent four days in the I.C.U. At one point during her recovery, she couldn’t even remember her own name or speak properly, a condition known as aphasia.
“One night…a nurse woke me and, as part of a series of cognitive exercises, she said, ‘What’s your name?’ 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.”
The Game of Thrones star was then sent back to the I.C.U. for another week until her brain was able to heal from the extreme trauma. Clarke was later told that she had another growth on the other side of her brain, which could also rupture. She went back to her daily life—filming, press obligations, etc.— but she still felt off. She was experiencing such pain and weakness that she would sip on morphine between publicity interviews.
During a now-routine brain scan, it was revealed that the second potential aneurysm “doubled in size.” She needed to have surgery again. Unfortunately, the procedure was unsuccessful, and the artery ruptured. Doctors feared she would not survive unless they conducted an even more invasive surgery in order to stop the bleeding.
“I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.”
After an agonizing month-long recover, Clarke emerged alive and well; she was able to retain her cognitive functions, unlike so many that suffer from such a condition. Despite going through such a traumatizing ordeal, Ms. Clarke has a bright outlook.
“I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next.”