In a candid essay, the Game of Thrones star reveals she nearly lost her life. 

By Isabel Jones
Updated Mar 21, 2019 @ 2:45 pm

More than eight years later, Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke is opening up about suffering through two brain aneurysms that threatened to take her life.

In an essay for The New Yorker, Clarke writes that during a session with her trainer in February 2011 (two months before Thrones' would premiere), she first felt a sensation she’d describe as “an elastic band 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," Clarke went on. "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."

The actress, then 24, had suffered from “a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain” which forced her into the first of her brain surgeries.

After the surgery, Clarke had difficulty remembering her name, which sent her into a “blind panic.”

“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,” she wrote.

“In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job — my entire dream of what my life would be — centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”

91st Annual Academy Awards - Arrivals
Credit: Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Luckily, the condition, called aphasia, passed, and Clarke was able to return to her regular life and her role on Thrones.

However, after wrapping season 3 in 2013, Clarke had to have second surgery for a growth on the other side of her brain that had doubled in size since she was last hospitalized.

“I went for surgery, another trip up the femoral artery to my brain. No problem,” she writes, “Except there was.”

“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.”

“The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery,” Emilia admitted. “I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced. I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.”

Despite the severity of her struggle, today Clarke says she’s at “a hundred per cent” health-wise and is now using her experience to assist others. She’s worked to develop a charity called SameYou that helps those suffering from brain injuries or stroke get the treatment they need.

“I feel endless gratitude — to my mum and brother, to my doctors and nurses, to my friends,” Emilia writes. “There is something gratifying, and beyond lucky, about coming to the end of Thrones. I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next.”