In an essay published by The New Yorker, titled “A Battle for My Life,” she reveals she almost died while filming the series.
In February 2011, just as GoT was kicking off, the then 24-yearold Emilia underwent her first of two brain surgeries and an extensive and gruelling recovery period.
While working out with her trainer in London, she suffered from a ruptured brain aneurysm. She explains that she “started to feel a bad headache coming on” but pushed through only to collapse in the bathroom. After being rushed to the hospital and having an MRI, the results were terrifying.
“The diagnosis was quick and ominous: a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain,” she details in the article. “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. And, even then, there were no guarantees.”
She made it through the surgery but after two weeks of recovery, the nurse asked Clarke what her name was to which she responded with “nonsense words” and panicked because “I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.”
She was suffering from a condition called aphasia which luckily passed after about a week.
Returning to the Game of Thrones set, press interviews and travelling after about a month, Emilia then learned she had another “smaller aneurysm” on the other side of her brain that could “pop” at any time.
Keeping the constant pain away with morphine, the actress admits she was terrified of dying alone in a “random hotel room.”
In 2013, Clarke said she went for a brain scan — which is something she “now had to do regularly” — and discovered “the growth on the other side of my brain had doubled in size, and the doctor said we should ‘take care of it.’”
She had the surgery at a New York City hospital but there was a complication and when Clarke woke she 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. This time they needed to access my brain in the old-fashioned way — through my skull. And the operation had to happen immediately,” she explains.
“The recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery. I looked as though I had been through a war more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced. I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium,” she adds.
Spending a month in hospital for her recovery, Emilia admits she was in “a dark mental place” but proudly states “I survived” and “in the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred per cent.”
The GoT actress has now decided to get involved with charities in the U.K. and the U.S. called SameYou, which “aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.”