This is heavy. Game of Thrones powerhouse Emilia Clarke recently revealed that she suffered a life-threatening stroke following filming for the first season of the hit HBO series. Penning her own harrowing story for The New Yorker, Emilia, 32, explained in extreme detail the secret health battle that nearly killed her.
On February 11, 2011, the beloved actress went to work out with her personal trainer — something she began doing regularly since snagging her part on GoT. Unfortunately, on this particular morning, her routine went horribly wrong. “My trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain,” Emilia explained.
“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.” The British beauty somehow made it to the locker room where she proceeded to “sink to her knees” and be “violently, voluminously ill.” Despite trying to will away the pain, Emilia was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital, doctors were quick to provide Emilia with a diagnosis. “A subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture,” Emilia described.
“As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter,” the Emmy-nominee continued. “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.”
It was later decided that Emilia would undergo brain surgery. “I remember being told that I should sign a release form for surgery. Brain surgery? I was in the middle of my very busy life — I had no time for brain surgery,” she recalled. Emilia noted that the operation lasted three hours and that she woke up in “unbearable” pain. Unfortunately, it was only the beginning of her health issues.
By 2013, Emilia had three seasons of Game of Thrones under her belt. As a means of ensuring her good health, she regularly underwent brain scans. It appeared as though she was in the clear. However, after one of her routine checkups, the doctor discovered that her brain “doubled in size.”
The doctor immediately told Emilia that they should “take care of it,” and she was back in surgery. “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,” she said. “This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way — through my skull. And the operation had to happen immediately.”
Even though at certain points Emilia admitted to losing hope, her dedication to recovery never wavered. “In the years since my second surgery, I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred percent,” she assured. “Beyond my work as an actor, I’ve decided to throw myself into a charity I’ve helped develop in conjunction with partners in the U.K. and the U.S. It is called SameYou, and it aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.”