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05 March 2024

Emilia Clarke almost died after brain aneurysm

Photo: Bang

By Bang

Emilia Clarke almost died after she suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms whilst filming 'Game of Thrones' in 2011.

The 32-year-old actress - who stars as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO fantasy drama - has revealed that she almost died in 2011, after doctors discovered she had two aneurysms in her brain.

Emilia says that following the first season of the 'Game of Thrones', she decided to unwind by working out with a trainer, but began suffering from "constricting pain" in her head.

Writing in an essay for The New Yorker entitled 'A Battle for My Life', she said: "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. I was so fatigued that I could barely put on my sneakers. When I started my workout, I had to force myself through the first few exercises.

"Then my trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain. 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. Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room. I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain - shooting, stabbing, constricting pain - was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged."

From the gym, Emilia was taken to hospital and given an MRI scan, which showed she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.

She continued: "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."

After surgery, Emilia then began to suffer from aphasia - an impairment of language following brain trauma - and couldn't even recall her own name.

She wrote: "I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered. Even as I was muttering nonsense, my mum did me the great kindness of ignoring it and trying to convince me that I was perfectly lucid. But I knew I was faltering. In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job - my entire dream of what my life would be - centred on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost."

The actress' aphasia passed after a week in hospital, but before returning to work, she was told she had a second, smaller aneurysm on the other side of her brain, which doctors believed would stay "dormant".

She added: "The doctors said, though, that it was small and it was possible it would remain dormant and harmless indefinitely. We would just keep a careful watch.

"I told my bosses at 'Thrones' about my condition, but I didn't want it to be a subject of public discussion and dissection. The show must go on! Even before we began filming Season 2, I was deeply unsure of myself. I was often so woozy, so weak, that I thought I was going to die."

In the wake of her health scare, Emilia has helped to set up the charity SameYou, which helps to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and strokes.