Emilia Clarke has just opened up on what sounds like the toughest experience she's ever faced.
For the first time, the actress is discussing how she had not one, but two life-threatening brain aneurysms during her time on Game of Thrones. The first one happened after Season 1 finished filming, and the second after finishing Season 3, while she was playing Holly Golightly in the Broadway production of Breakfast at Tiffany's.
“On the morning of February 11, 2011, I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym in Crouch End, North London, when I started to feel a bad headache coming on,” Clarke began in an essay for The New Yorker. Soon after, she was rushed to the hospital and had an MRI.
“The diagnosis was quick and ominous: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain," Clarke explained. "I’d had an aneurysm, an arterial rupture. 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.”
When she awoke, she had trouble speaking and wished for death because she thought she could no longer act. "I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living," she courageously admitted, adding, "In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die." She left the hospital a month later, but when she returned to Thrones she still feared for her life. “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.” Although she told the showrunners of GoT what happened, she was adamant on it not making it to the media.
Then in 2013, Clarke went in for a brain scan and they found a, “growth on the other side of my brain had doubled in size.” Doctors operated, but it was a failure. For a second time, Clarke was hospitalized and lost all hope. Her brain needed to be operated on again, this time through the skull.
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"I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head," Clarke recalled. "Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.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."
Clarke has since recovered, thankfully, and as we know has been able to finish her time on Game of Thrones. Apart from acting, the 32-year-old star has started her own charity, SameYou, which, in her own words, "aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke."
This is a nearly unbelievable story, and we commend Clarke on her bravery in coming out and sharing it. We're sure it will affect many.