Emilia Clarke was at a high point: She had just finished filming her first season playing Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones and, though she writes that she was “terrified” at her sudden success, she also writes that all her “childhood dreams seemed to have come true.”
Then she almost died—twice.
For the first time publicly, she reveals in a New Yorker essay that she suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2011, when she was 24, and two years later underwent a traumatic surgery for a second aneurysm. She details the low blood pressure, headaches, and occasional collapses she suffered in her younger days while trying to make it as an actor, noting that in retrospect those may have been “warning signs of what was to come.”
Then, while working out with a trainer in 2011, she got a headache so bad it felt like “an elastic band … squeezing my brain.”
She found out she’d suffered an aneurysm that caused a type of stroke that kills about a third of patients who experience it. She details the surgery and the month she spent in the hospital, worried she may have to give up her career, as well as the intense pain and exhaustion that followed her everywhere even after she had recovered.
She also found out during the experience that she had a smaller aneurysm on the other side of her brain that could rupture, and in 2013, while in New York performing in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, she went for a brain scan and found it had doubled in size.
What was supposed to be a “relatively simple operation” went wrong, leading to a massive bleed that, again, nearly killed her.
A second, more serious operation and an even more painful recovery followed, yet the story has largely remained off the radar until now. Her full piece is worth a read.