Game of Thrones actor Emilia Clarke opened up for the first time about her life-threatening battle with brain aneurysms that began after the HBO show finished its first season.
Clarke managed to keep her health struggles out of the public for years, and, in an essay for the New Yorker, Clarke wrote about her experience rushing into urgent surgery after fainting at the gym during a workout and then being diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a stroke that one-third of patients can die from.
“I remember being told that I should sign a release form for surgery. Brain surgery? I was in the middle of my very busy life—I had no time for brain surgery,” Clarke wrote.
After her first surgery, Clarke said she was in “unbearable” pain and struggled to initially recover. A moment of panic set in when she couldn’t even remember her own name.
“I’d never experienced fear like that — a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name,” she wrote.
“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—centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”
The actor said she had recovered enough to leave the hospital one month after her surgery and returned to film Game of Thrones Season 2 just a few weeks later. Despite the pain, emotional hardship, and doctors telling her she had another small aneurysm on the other side of her brain that could also “pop at any time,” Clarke got back to work.
“I told my bosses at Thrones about my condition, but I didn’t want it to be a subject of public discussion and dissection,” she wrote. “The show must go on!”
But once she was back in the swing of things, Clarke said she “didn’t miss a beat, but I struggled.”
“Season 2 would be my worst. I didn’t know what Daenerys was doing. If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die,” she wrote.
After Season 3 of Game of Thrones wrapped, Clarke said she had another life-threatening emergency surgery and ultimately the “recovery was even more painful than it had been after the first surgery.” She spent a month in the hospital and dealt with anxiety, panic attacks, and said she was “convinced that I wasn’t going to live.”
Ever since her last surgery, Clarke said she’s fully healed “beyond my most unreasonable hopes,” and now feels compelled to share her story.
“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.”