'Game of Thrones' star Emilia Clarke reveals she survived two life-threatening aneurysms while working on the show

2019-03-22 11:21

New York — Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke revealed in an op-ed on Thursday that she has had two life-threatening aneurysms, and two brain surgeries, since the show began.

Clarke had just finished filming her first season as Daenerys Targaryen, the 'Mother of Dragons', on the HBO fantasy series when she had the first aneurysm in 2011 at age 24 while working out at a London gym.

"Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life," Clarke writes in a first-person story in The New Yorker. "I've never told this story publicly, but now it's time."

Clarke said she had been healthy all her life, but was suffering from serious stress when the artery burst in her brain. Much of it came from constant press questions about the nudity of her character, a conquering queen, in the show's first episode.

"I always got the same question: Some variation of 'You play such a strong woman, and yet you take off your clothes. Why?'" Clarke writes. "In my head, I'd respond, 'How many men do I need to kill to prove myself?'"

The 32-year-old reveals she suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage - a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain - which can very easily be fatal. She underwent "minimally invasive" surgery, which does not require doctors to open her skull, to seal the aneurysm. 

READ MORE: Stroke causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

Clarke goes on the reveal recovery was not easy, but it would not be the worst she would experience.

The second surgery, which was more invasive and involved opening her skull, came after Clarke finished shooting the third season and was working on Broadway in New York.

She went in for a brain scan and an aneurysm that had previously been identified had doubled in size. Doctors told Clarke it needed to be taken care of and that it would be a similar procedure to the one she had - but it failed and things went wrong very quickly prompting an open skull surgery. 

"I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced," Clarke writes. "I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium. These days, you can't see the scar that curves from my scalp to my ear, but I didn't know at first that it wouldn't be visible."

She adds, there was "the constant worry about cognitive or sensory losses" but now jokes that it "robbed" her of "good taste in men".

She recovered fully, however, and was able to keep the problems from the media with one exception.

"Six weeks after the surgery, the National Enquirer ran a short story," Clarke writes. "A reporter asked me about it and I denied it."

Clarke concludes her essay by assuring readers she has fully recovered and has since thrown herself into a charity called SameYou, which she helped developed and which "aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke."


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