themighty logo

'Games of Thrones' Actress Emilia Clarke Shares Photos From Her Brain Aneurysm Recovery

Since she revealed in March that she’s experienced two brain aneurysms, “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke has spoken out about her experiences as she promotes the show ahead of its final season.

In an essay published in The New Yorker, Clarke shared what happened, and described the dark thoughts she struggled with following her aneurysms, as she had dealt with difficult symptoms such as aphasia, pain, fatigue and anxiety.

The first aneurysm occurred after Clarke had finished filming the first season of “Game of Thrones,” the HBO series in which she plays Daenerys Targaryen, the “Mother of Dragons.” She had experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space around the brain.

Clarke had surgery to stop the bleeding and seal off the aneurysm, but during the procedure, doctors found another small aneurysm on the other side of her brain. Though it didn’t necessitate immediate surgery, her doctors planned to keep a close eye on it in case it was to “pop.”

“On the set, I didn’t miss a beat, but I struggled,” she wrote. “If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die.”

During a routine brain scan two years later, doctors discovered the aneurysm had doubled in size, so they operated immediately. However, a massive bleed in Clarke’s brain during the surgery necessitated an even more invasive procedure.

“At certain points, I lost all hope,” Clarke wrote in her essay.

In an interview on Sunday with CBS Sunday Morning, Clarke described just how serious the second aneurysm turned out to be.

“The second one – there was a bit of my brain that actually died,” she said. “If a part of your brain doesn’t get blood to it for a minute, it will just no longer work. It’s like you’ll short-circuit. So I had that.”

She also explained how much more difficult it was to stay positive after this second health scare.

“The first time it was difficult, but with the second one, I found it much harder to stay optimistic,” Clarke continued. “I definitely went through a period of being down – putting it mildly.”

To offer some additional insight into what her recovery period “looked” like, Clarke shared several photos with CBS from her time in the hospital.

The photos – in which Clarke has her hair tied up, is not wearing makeup, is attached to various machines and monitors and isn’t smiling – may look familiar to anyone who has spent time in the hospital for an illness, surgery or health crisis. They offer a glimpse into the honest reality of what a hospital stay is actually like.

Emilia Clarke lying in her hospital bed
via CBS
Emilia Clarke lying in her hospital bed with electrodes stuck on her chest
via CBS
Emilia Clarke lying in her hospital bed and using her phone
via CBS
Emilia Clarke in the hospital with monitors stuck to her head and a machine behind her
via CBS

Clarke has since made a full recovery and is looking toward the future with excitement. To help others who are facing similar challenges, Clarke developed a charity called SameYou in conjunction with partners in the U.S. and the U.K. The organization aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke.

“I really, really, really am gonna put my heart, soul and back into transforming aftercare for brain injury recovery and also just simply bringing awareness to the invisible disease that is brain injury,” she said.

Lead photo via Official Game of Thrones Facebook page