Emilia Clarke Reveals She Suffered Two Life-Threatening Brain Aneurysms During The Early Days Of 'GOT'

For the first time, the 'Game of Thrones' actress opens up about her medical history, and how it threatened to take her life.

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It's easy to think we know everything about a celebrity's life, but in reality, we really don't. Take Emilia Clarke as example, who just bravely revealed she suffered two life-threatening aneurysms during the early seasons of filming Game of Thrones. In a personal essay published by The New Yorker, Clarke takes us through the terrifying medical ordeal that didn't just happen once, but twice.

The essay beings, "Just when all my childhood dreams seemed to have come true, I nearly lost my mind and then my life. I’ve never told this story publicly, but now it’s time." Clarke's essay is open and honest, taking us through everything from her childhood dreams of acting, to her audition for Daenerys Targaryen, which included her doing a "funky chicken" dance for David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. 

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It all began, or at least came to the surface, in February 2011 when Clarke was in the middle of a personal training session. "Then my trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain," Clarke explains, "I tried to ignore the pain and push through it, but I just couldn’t." After getting violently ill and collapsing in the bathroom, she was transported to the hospital where a brain scan revealed she'd had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a type of stroke, often caused by a ruptured aneurysm. "As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed. If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees."

As a result of her brain trauma, she developed aphasia, a condition that affects a person's ability to understand and express speech — something that would be quite jarring for anyone, let alone an actress whose job relies on her ability to speak and memorize lines. The aphasia passed, but the pain persisted. And then came another surgery in 2013, for yet another aneurysm, and then the utter lose of hope that her life would ever be normal again. 

But it did become normal again — in fact, she is now functioning at 100%. 

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On March 21, the same day that the essay was published, Clarke also launched a charity organization called SameYou, which "aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke." 

In a note from Clarke on the organization's site, she explains, "I know from personal experience that the support you receive when you leave hospital can have a huge impact on your recovery. Young adults in particular face immense challenges trying to rebuild their lives. Not everyone is able to make a full recovery after brain injury or stroke, but I believe that everyone should have access to the best possible mental and physical rehabilitation to maximise their individual recovery potential. I am calling for the prioritisation of increased funding for neurorehabilitation. Everyone after leaving hospital should have the multi-disciplinary rehabilitation and recovery care they desperately need." 

As we near the final season of Game of Thrones, Clarke reflects "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." We applaud Clarke for her bravery and for her passion to help others affected by situations similar to hers. We cannot wait to see her continue to be a badass both on and off the screen. 

Associate Editor at Livingly. You can reach me by email at sydney.fogel@livingly.com and on Instagram @sydneyfvz
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