Actress Emilia Clarke has opened up about suffering her first subarachnoid hemorrhage at the age of 24, and how she now considers the ordeal to be a good thing.
The “Game of Thrones” star, who has suffered two hemorrhages—caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain—was completely unaware when she suffered a life-threatening stroke in 2011, not long after she had completed filming for the first season of the hit HBO series.
Just over eight years on, the 33-year-old told The Observer she believes her health scares have provided her with a different way of viewing life.
“I definitely think it’s a good thing,” Clarke said. “Having a brain hemorrhage that coincided precisely with the beginning of my career and the beginning of a show that became something quite meaty, it gave me a perspective that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”
It was the first of many hurdles for Clarke. Shortly after wrapping up filming for season three of Game of Thrones, she discovered she had another swollen blood vessel in her brain. Then, in 2016, her father passed away from cancer.
Clarke said the combination of hardships she faced throughout the early stages of her career only helped her to better cope with the pressures of fame.
“I’m quite a resilient human being, so a parent dying and brain hemorrhages coinciding with success and people following you in the street and getting stalkers—you’re just, like, ‘Well, let’s try and make something sensible of it,’” Clarke added.
The “Last Christmas” actress first shared details of her health struggles in March, in a published personal essay in the New Yorker, titled “A Battle For My Life,” where she highlighted the dangers of the condition.
“As I later learned, about a third of SAH patients die immediately or soon thereafter. For the patients who do survive, urgent treatment is required to seal off the aneurysm, as there is a very high risk of a second, often fatal bleed,” she wrote.
“If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees.”
With her mother by her side, Clarke recalled the moment she signed a release form for three-hour brain surgery at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London. When she woke up, the pain was “unbearable,” and she couldn’t even remember her own name, the actress wrote.
“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.”
“This would not be my last surgery, and it would not be the worst. I was twenty-four years old.”
Clarke recalled how she struggled through publicity tours, sipping on morphine between interviews to ease the pain and exhaustion.
The recovery for Clarke’s second surgery, she said, “was even more painful than it had been after the first.”
“But I survived. I survived MTV and so much more. In the years since my second surgery, I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred percent.
“Every day, I miss my father, who died of cancer in 2016, and I can never thank him enough for holding my hand to the very end,” she concluded.
Clarke’s latest role is in Last Christmas, a romantic comedy where she stars alongside Emma Thompson and Crazy Rich Asians star Henry Goulding.