Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke is opening up about a terrifying health ordeal that almost killed her in the early years of the show.
In an essay for The New Yorker, the actress, 32, revealed that she suffered from two brain aneurysms shortly after landing the role of a lifetime as Daenerys Targaryen on the hit HBO show.
The first occurred when she was 24 years old, shortly after filming the first season. While working out with a trainer, she began to experience a blinding headache.
“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,” she said. “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.”
After an MRI, she was told she’d suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), which she described as “a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.”
She would go on to have corrective surgery, which left her with a condition known as aphasia, which causes speech and memory problems.
“I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living,” Clarke wrote in the essay. “I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.”
She went back to work and was so physically drained that she found herself sipping morphine to get through press interviews. She worried daily that she would die for most of the filming of season two, she revealed.
Later, in 2013, a routine brain scan revealed that her surgery had been unsuccessful and would need an immediate followup.
“Going through this experience for the second time, all hope receded… I do remember being convinced that I wasn’t going to live,” she wrote.
After a month in the hospital, Clarke recovered and has since gone on to film seven more seasons of her hit show, as well as films and plays.
She is now working with a charity that specializes in working with victims of strokes and aneurysms.
“In the years since my second surgery, I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes,” Clarke said. “I am now at a hundred percent.”
Game of Thrones returns for its final season on April 14 on HBO, a fact which she is excited about.
“There is something gratifying, and beyond lucky, about coming to the end of ‘Thrones,’” she wrote. “I’m so happy to be here to see the end of this story and the beginning of whatever comes next.”