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Emilia Clarke’s Story Of Surviving Brain Aneurysm, Shows That She’s A Real Life Khaleesi!

Written by Keeping Zen


Emilia Clarke was not the first choice for what has evolved to be the most inspiring and influential character of this generation’s epic show Game of Thrones. But, the universe has its own way of working that we can only aspire to understand. In this case, Khaleesi was meant to be played by someone who is a real life personification of the character’s unrelenting grit and strength.

Recently, in a stirring article in The New Yorker, appropriately titled ‘A Battle For My Life,’ Clarke shared her frightening tryst with potentially fatal aneurysms just after finishing shooting for GoT Season 1.

“To relieve the stress, I worked out with a trainer. I was a television actor now, after all, and that is what television actors do. We work out. On the morning of February 11, 2011, I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym in Crouch End, North London, when I started to feel a bad headache coming on. I was so fatigued that I could barely put on my sneakers. When I started my workout, I had to force myself through the first few exercises.

Then 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. 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.”

  • A Battle For My Life, Emilia Clarke


She then goes on to talk about how she tried to power through the debilitating pain, with the focus and deliberation of the Mother of Dragons!

"For a few moments, I tried to will away the pain and the nausea. I said to myself, “I will not be paralyzed.” I moved my fingers and toes to make sure that was true. To keep my memory alive, I tried to recall, among other things, some lines from “Game of Thrones.”

  • A Battle For My Life, Emilia Clarke


As powerful as the mind can be, sometimes the body takes over, and wins. Clarke was not paralysed by what an MRI revealed was a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening brain stroke in which there is bleeding into the space that surrounds the brain. SAH has a high mortality rate, and a high rate of a recurrence. Clarke needed immediate brain surgery, which she had no choice but to sign up for, amidst her hectic schedule as an emerging TV actress.


Speaking of her years growing up, Clarke remembers minor health issues that she - like most of us - brushed off as nothing to worry about.

“In those days, I thought of myself as healthy. Sometimes I got a little light-headed, because I often had low blood pressure and a low heart rate. Once in a while, I’d get dizzy and pass out. When I was fourteen, I had a migraine that kept me in bed for a couple of days, and in drama school I’d collapse once in a while. But it all seemed manageable, part of the stress of being an actor and of life in general. Now I think that I might have been experiencing warning signs of what was to come.”

  • A Battle For My Life, Emilia Clarke


Raise your hand if you also ignore an unusually bad headache, or a cough that lasts more than the usual three to five days that is warranted for a viral, or a recurrent fever. I raise both my hands, and my feet! Of course, for many of us (I want to say most, but I don’t know), a headache is not always a warning sign for an impeding stroke, but what’s the guarantee? We know that many health issues become severe when they are not paid attention to, while they are still mild.

Clarke shares a terrifying moment when, post surgery, in her slightly foggy state, she couldn’t remember her full name.

“One night, after I’d passed that crucial mark, a nurse woke me and, as part of a series of cognitive exercises, she said, “What’s your name?” My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. But now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. 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.

I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered. Even as I was muttering nonsense, my mum did me the great kindness of ignoring it and trying to convince me that I was perfectly lucid. But I knew I was faltering. 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.”

  • A Battle For My Life, Emilia Clarke


But, she fought, and she went back to work - shooting in full bloom for the second season of GoT. Not a long time passed before her wooziness, weakness and headaches began to take a toll on her, and she struggled with keeping up with her shoot schedule, PR activities and interviews. Unfortunately, a regular brain scan revealed that the small aneurysm that was there the first time around had now doubled in size, and needed to be taken care of. This time, it would be an open skull surgery for this 20-something. But, true to her reel life persona, this Lady of Dragonstone fought, and made it through! Don’t think it was easy, though!

"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. These days, you can’t see the scar that curves from my scalp to my ear, but I didn’t know at first that it wouldn’t be visible. And there was, above all, the constant worry about cognitive or sensory losses. Would it be concentration? Memory? Peripheral vision? Now I tell people that what it robbed me of is good taste in men. But, of course, none of this seemed remotely funny at the time.

I spent a month in the hospital again and, at certain points, I lost all hope. I couldn’t look anyone in the eye. There was terrible anxiety, panic attacks. I was raised never to say, “It’s not fair”; I was taught to remember that there is always someone who is worse off than you. But, going through this experience for the second time, all hope receded. I felt like a shell of myself. So much so that I now have a hard time remembering those dark days in much detail. My mind has blocked them out. But I do remember being convinced that I wasn’t going to live."

  • A Battle For My Life, Emilia Clarke


Life and death are a mystery, and will always remain so. Stories like these also reveal that illness and recovery fall in the same bracket. They don’t give definitive answers to healing, or to why illness catches certain people, and not others. But, they do give hope. And sometimes - no, often - hope is the most powerful survival tool!

Read the full account on The New Yorker


Image Source: Wallpapersite 



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