Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has published an essay in the New Yorker titled "A Battle for My Life" in which she recounts how she survived two brain aneurysms while filming the show.
The actress says the first aneurysm was discovered after she collapsed while working out with a personal trainer following the first season of Game of Thrones in 2011. She was diagnosed with "a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain."
Clarke, who was 24 at the time, was told that nearly one-third of SAH patients die "immediately or soon thereafter." Her recovery from brain surgery was incredibly difficult. She spent a week in the ICU due to a condition called aphasia, which left her without speech. There were moments that were so bad that the actress admits she asked the staff to let her die. After the aphasia passed and Clarke recovered, she was discharged and began filming the second season of Game of Thrones.
She was warned by doctors, however, of another, smaller aneurysm in a different area of her brain.
"On the set, I didn't miss a beat, but I struggled," Clarke wrote. "Season two would be my worst. I didn't know what Daenerys was doing. If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die."
View this post on Instagram
🎉THE MOST EXCITING NEWS EVER FOR THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING!🎉 The charity I have been working on for a fair few years goes live today!!! 💥💥💥 @sameyouorg is full to bursting with love, brain power and the help of amazing people with amazing stories. @newyorkermag published my story, now I’d like to hear yours! #sameyoucharity #sameyourecovery #braininjury #letschangehowwehelp #letsbreakthesilence #youarenotalone #love #❤️
In 2013, after wrapping the third season of Game of Thrones, Clarke underwent a routine brain scan and was told she would need surgery on the second aneurysm. The operation encountered difficulties with doctors having to open her skull. Again, Clarke spent a month in the hospital, where she experienced pain as well as anxiety and panic attacks.
Clarke managed to keep her condition hidden from the press. She had informed the Game of Thrones showrunners and kept working and doing publicity tours. She also attended San Diego Comic-Con several weeks after her second surgery.
"But now, after keeping quiet all these years, I'm telling you the truth in full," Clarke wrote. "Please believe me: I know that I am hardly unique, hardly alone. Countless people have suffered far worse, and with nothing like the care I was so lucky to receive."
In addition to her essay in the New Yorker, Clarke has founded a charity called Same You.
"The charity I have been working on for a fair few years goes live today!" Clarke wrote on Instagram. "[Same You] full to bursting with love, brain power and the help of amazing people with amazing stories. [The New Yorker] published my story, now I'd like to hear yours!"
Same You strives to promote primary research with the Stroke Association UK in order to meet the needs of people recovering from brain injuries and strokes, especially young people. The charity also hopes to increase funding for clinical research and establish a new neurorehabilitation training qualification.
"I am calling for the prioritization of increased funding for neurorehabilitation," Clarke says. "Everyone after leaving hospital should have the multi-disciplinary rehabilitation and recovery care they desperately need."
Clarke’s essay in the New Yorker is the first time she’s spoken publicly about her ordeal. Though she says she is now "at a hundred percent," she will continue to focus on the disease through her charity to support others going through the same experience. Mother of Dragons indeed.