Emilia Clarke has spent eight years portraying Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones, becoming one of the most recognisable faces in pop culture.
However, life has not just been a series of gorgeous filming locations and red carpet appearances for the Emmy nominee, who has also had to contend with some serious health conditions during her time on the hit TV show.
Writing a deeply personal account for The New Yorker, the 32-year-old actor spoke candidly about the brain aneurysms she suffered while filming Game of Thrones.
Emilia viscerally described how she felt ‘an elastic band were squeezing my brain’ during a workout session, alerting her that something was wrong:
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.
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.
After being sent for a brain scan, it was found Emilia – who was just 24 years old at this point – had suffered a brain aneurysm.
She was then taken to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery where ‘surgeons went about repairing my brain’ using ‘minimally invasive’ endovascular coiling.
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I mean I really don’t know how many more times I can remind myself that last night happened…not only because the end seems rather erm… hazy now.. Safe to say we got LIT UP. Who knew the #oscars2019 could be so damn fun?! From my insane @balmain dress to my insanely magical @niwaka_collections bling to my perfect colour (NOT DONE BY ME OUT OF A BOX!) but by the fantabulous kind saw me on the last day of her holidays @nicolaclarkecolour to @jennychohair @jilliandempsey @jennahipp @petraflannery my sisters from other mistas thank you for making me sparkly and shine and get me to the damn party on time! #littyinthecity #brunetteshavemorefunandnowiveprovedit #🔥 #❤️ #💪🏻
Unfortunately, Emilia was told she had another, smaller brain aneurysm which could ‘pop’ at any time.
After season three of Game Of Thrones wrapped up, a brain scan revealed this aneurysm had ‘doubled in size’, and Emilia was told further neurosurgery would be necessary.
However, this time the procedure was more traumatic, and Emilia woke up ‘screaming in pain’.
Writing in The New Yorker, Emilia explained how the procedure had proved unsuccessful, and more invasive surgery was needed:
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.
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.
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FULL DISCLOSURE: dragons are not for eating. Only for riding, and the occasional bbq. However this chocolate cake explosion of love is..(that grin managed almost the whole thing) @lolafrears I love you with the fire of a thousand dragon panic attacks. (Carnage right?) But dear instaworld I wanted to say a huge thank you to all you glorious wonder creatures who wished me a happy birthday! I felt like one very lucky chica to have been sent so much love… (and chocolate) ❤️😍❤️ #thirtiesareforthecake #andtheeyebrowsfindingevengreaterheightsthaneverbefore #itmustbelove
It’s incredible to think Emilia was going through such traumatic medical issues while filming some of the most memorable scenes in television history. She is truly a formidably strong woman, both on-screen and off.
The eighth season of Game Of Thrones season begins Monday, April 15 on Sky Atlantic.
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Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.