Emilia Clarke Reveals She Survived Life-Threatening Aneurysms During 'Game of Thrones'

Opening up about her health journey, Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke revealed that she suffered two nearly fatal brain aneurysms during the early filming of the popular HBO series.

In a deeply personal essay entitled “A Battle for My Life” published on The New Yorker’s website Thursday, Clarke opened up about the medical condition that she has kept private over the past eight years.

After filming the first season of Game of Thrones, the British actress, who was 24-years-old at the time, explained that she worked out with a personal trainer to relieve the stress from filming the season, E! News reports.

As she was preparing for her workout, she started to “feel a bad headache coming on,” and added that she could barely power through the first few exercises with her trainer.

Telling her trainer she needed to take a break, Clarke wrote, “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.”

Clarke was taken from the London gym to a local hospital, where an MRI revealed the actress had a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), “a life-threatening type of stroke” that about a third of patients die immediately from or soon thereafter.

After being diagnosed, Clarke was transported to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London where should would undergo brain surgery, The Huffington Post reports.

Her surgery was successful, but she struggled to communicate initially after the surgery, unable to recall her own name. Clarke was suffering from a condition called aphasia, which often occurs after suffering a stroke or a head injury, HuffPost reports.

“In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug. I asked the medical staff to let me die,” she confessed. “My job—my entire dream of what my life would be—centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”

The aphasia passed, and Clarke rebounded, going on to film the second season of Game of Thrones, which she described as her “worst,” as she lived in constant fear of death.

Clarke notified her Game of Thrones bosses of her condition, but vowed to continue filming as planned.

“If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die,” the actress says of filming the second season.

After completing the third season of the series in 2013, Clarke divulged that a brain scan showed that the smaller aneurysm she had “on the other side of my brain had doubled in size” and she needed to have surgery.

When she woke up from surgery, she was “screaming in pain.”

“The procedure had failed,” Clarke wrote. “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.”

According to Clarke, the recovery from the second surgery was “even more painful,” and she spent the next month in a hospital “convinced that I wasn’t going to live.”

But in the years since her surgery, Clarke said she has “healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes,” and has worked to develop the charity Same You, which provides treatment to people recovering from brain injuries and strokes.

“But now, after keeping quiet all these years, I’m telling you the truth in full. Please believe me: I know that I am hardly unique, hardly alone,” Clarke wrote. “Countless people have suffered far worse, and with nothing like the care I was so lucky to receive.”