Emilia Clarke Reveals Health Battle During Game Of Thrones Filming

By GQ Staff
24 March 2019
Game of Thrones, Emilia Clarke
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The British actress revealed she almost didn’t survive production of the first season after suffering two brain aneurysms

The final season of Game of Thrones is fast approaching, driving fans into a frenzy of repeat watching as ideas, plotlines and outcomes of the final are discussed with ever-growing enthusiasm. But after a recent essay published in the New Yorker, it seems one of the show’s key characters almost didn’t make it past the first season.

Emilia Clarke, the beloved British actress who plays Daenerys Targaryen on Game Of Thrones, revealed she almost didn’t survive production of the first season after suffering two brain aneurysms. The 32-year-old recalls developing a bad headache and fatigue, which she tried to work through. However, she describes that her condition only deteriorated until it felt “as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain.”

“I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill,” she writes. “Meanwhile, the pain – shooting, stabbing, constricting pain – was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged.”

Clarke said that she focused on lines from Game of Thrones to distract from the pain. Once she arrived at the hospital, she then underwent MRI scans.

“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,” Clarke writes in the piece.


“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.

Brain surgery soon followed. “For the next three hours, surgeons went about repairing my brain. This would not be my last surgery, and it would not be the worst. I was 24 years old.”

Along with the “unbearable” pain that followed, a post-op Clarke soon suffered from aphasia, an impairment of language, which caused so much confusion that the star had trouble recollecting her name.

The aphasia soon passed and Clarke was discharged from hospital one month later. But while there, she suffered a second, smaller aneurysm, one she was told could “pop” at any moment.

Clarke notes that while she didn’t miss a beat when on the set of Season 2, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”

A checkup following production of Season 3 revealed that Clarke’s second aneurysm had grown and required immediate surgery. While it was meant to be a “relatively simple operation,” the procedure 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,” she writes. “So they did, but the old-fashioned way – through my skull.”

“I lost all hope,” Clarke says, regarding the recovery period that followed.


However, as we’ve seen both on the screen and off, the actress has overcome the health battle with great resilience. Now, Clarke has launched a new charity called SameYou, which provides support and treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.

The first episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 will be available to stream on Foxtel express from the US on April 15 at 11am.

Via GQ Australia

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