Emilia Clarke Opens Up About The Life-Threatening Brain Aneurysms That Almost Caused Her To Leave 'Game Of Thrones'
The talented actors and actresses starring in Game Of Thrones don't have easy lives. Every season they say goodbye to more cast members, and they wonder if they're going to be the next one to leave.
But it turns out some cast members have even bigger worries.
In 2011, just before Game Of Throneshit the big time, one of its most iconic stars was almost forced to step down from her role altogether.
Now known worldwide for playing the iconic mother of dragons Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke talked to the New Yorkerabout how that almost never happened.
"It was the beginning of 2011. I had just finished filming the first season of Game of Thrones...with almost no professional experience behind me, I'd been given the role of Daenerys Targaryen," began Clarke.
"Despite all the looming excitement of a publicity campaign and the series première, I hardly felt like a conquering spirit. I was terrified. Terrified of the attention, terrified of a business I barely understood, terrified of trying to make good on the faith that the creators of 'Thrones' had put in me. I felt, in every way, exposed. In the very first episode, I appeared naked, and, from that first press junket onward, I always got the same question: some variation of 'You play such a strong woman, and yet you take off your clothes. Why?' In my head, I'd respond, 'How many men do I need to kill to prove myself?'"
Game Of Thrones - Daenerys Targaryen Best Momentswww.youtube.com
"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," she continued.
But then, something started to feel wrong.
"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."
Clarke was suffering symptoms from a bulging or ruptured blood vessel in the brain, called an aneurysm. The symptoms she describes here are textbook indicators.
She went on:
"I heard a woman's voice coming from the next stall, asking me if I was O.K. No, I wasn't. She came to help me and maneuvered me onto my side, in the recovery position. Then everything became, at once, noisy and blurry. I remember the sound of a siren, an ambulance; I heard new voices, someone saying that my pulse was weak. I was throwing up bile. Someone found my phone and called my parents, who live in Oxfordshire, and they were told to meet me at the emergency room of Whittington Hospital."
Clarke said she was sure it was the end.
"When I woke [from brain surgery following the aneurysm], the pain was unbearable. I had no idea where I was. My field of vision was constricted. There was a tube down my throat and I was parched and nauseated. They moved me out of the I.C.U. after four days and told me that the great hurdle was to make it to the two-week mark. If I made it that long with minimal complications, my chances of a good recovery were high."
And make it she did, but the hurtles weren't over.
"I was told that I had a smaller aneurysm on the other side of my brain, and it could 'pop' at any time."
"Even before we began filming Season 2, I was deeply unsure of myself. I was often so woozy, so weak, that I thought I was going to die.
"Staying at a hotel in London during a publicity tour, I vividly remember thinking, I can't keep up or think or breathe, much less try to be charming. I sipped on morphine in between interviews. The pain was there, and the fatigue was like the worst exhaustion I'd ever experienced, multiplied by a million. And, let's face it, I'm an actor. Vanity comes with the job. I spent way too much time thinking about how I looked. If all this weren't enough, I seemed to whack my head every time I tried to get in a taxi."
"If I am truly being honest, every minute of every day I thought I was going to die."
The second time she went in for a scan, the second aneurysm had doubled in size.
"When they woke me, I was screaming in pain. The procedure had failed. 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."
"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."
But Clarke tells this story with home.
"...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 per cent."
She is also looking to help beyond her personal sphere.
"Beyond my work as an actor, I've decided to throw myself into a charity I've helped develop in conjunction with partners in the U.K. and the U.S. It is called SameYou, and it aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke."
When you're a Khaleesi both on-screen and off, even your most laborious experiences become ways to help others.
Thank you, Emilia Clarke, for sharing your story.
Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'
Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.
Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.
For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.
I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.
My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.
Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.
It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:
"Give an example; how weird are you really?"
Monsters Under My Bed
"My bed doesn't touch any wall."
"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."
"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."
"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"
Can You See Why?
"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."
"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."
"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."
"Makes me think my "memory is full.""
"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."
"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"
Not Sure Who Was Weirder
"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."
"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."
"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."
"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."
"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."
"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."
"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."
My Favorite Subject
"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."
"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."
"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."
"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."
"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."
"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."
"I bite ice cream sometimes."
"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."
Never Speak Of This
"I put ice in my milk."
"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."
"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."
More Than Super Hearing
"I can hear the television while it's on mute."
"What does it say to you, child?"
"I put mustard on my omelettes."
– Deleted User
"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."
"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."
"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."
I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!
Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.
Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?
But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.
It would be so great to be sure there is something else.
But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.
Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:
"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"
SensationsHappy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy
"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."
"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."
"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."
"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."
Take Me Back
"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."
"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."
FreeThe Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy
"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."
This is why I hate surgery.
You just never know.
"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."
"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."
"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”
"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"
"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"
"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."
"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."
Through the Walls
"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."
"She's quite alive and well today."
Well let's all be happy to be alive.
It seems to be all we have.
We all have our favorite foods, food preferences, and even foods that we don't like.
But there are some popular foods out there that just don't make sense. Nonetheless, we keep seeing them advertised, included in movies and TV shows, and of course, our loved ones ordering them while we look on in confusion.
Curious about others' food preferences, Redditor YarnSpectre asked:
"What's one food everyone seems to go crazy for, but you just don't understand the hype?"
So Much Sugar
"Nutella. It’s just okay."
"Way too sweet for me, I’d probably love it with one-fifth of the sugar."
"Unfortunately that's true of a lot of desserts, though. Most would benefit from a cut of at least 25 percent of the sugar."
"Red velvet cake. I've had ones that were supposed to be excellent but it's just red cake."
"Most red velvet cakes are just s**tty vanilla cake with red food coloring. Get one (or make one) the correct way with non-Dutch-processed cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar. It's an incredibly smooth, very different type of chocolate cake."
Mastery Makes a Difference
"Those multicolored cookie things that everyone was making into cakes or something for a while? Macaroons? Macarons? I don't think I've ever had one that tasted good. They're pretty, but that's it."
"Macarons. I never cared for them either."
"I had one yesterday at a potluck, homemade ones. They were seriously something else, with some sort of butter cream and jelly inside. Never had anything quite like it. Now I wish I had grabbed a few to take home."
"I still won't eat store-bought ones, though."
The Wrong Kind of Spice
"Hot Cheetos or Takis. Anything with the artificially colored spicy powder."
"Takis texture is my issue. They’re like semi-stale rolled-up Doritos."
The Sugar Cookies of the Midwest
"Those dry-a** Walmart sugar cookies."
"They taste like play-dough cookies came to life."
"I mean, people go crazy in both directions, but cilantro. There’s the whole 'does it taste like soap or not' thing, but it’s usually presented as 'people either think it tastes like soap or they find it amazing.'"
"I am neither. It doesn’t taste like soap to me, but I also don’t love it. Meh."
"I don't think it tastes like soap, but I do think it tastes weirdly metallic. I don't go out of my way to avoid it in pre-prepared food, but I usually leave it out of things I'm preparing myself."
Fancy Decor Only
"People like how fondant LOOKS. I refuse to believe a single soul wants to EAT it."
"It's like eating a candied raincoat."
Back for a Limited Time
"Every time it comes back, I’m SUPER excited for the McRib at McDonald's. I bite into one and then… the spongey texture hits me and makes me remember why I don’t need to buy it ever again."
"Then, somehow, McRib season rolls around again two years later, and there I am in line…"
"I'm convinced this is why they only bring it out every once in a while. Nobody actually likes it, but they wait just long enough for you to forget that it's no good and then hit you with a combo of nostalgia and 'limited time only' FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)."
A Seasonal Tradition
"Pumpkin spice. It’s fine, but absolutely not anything to make a fuss about."
"There is a car parts place in a small town I drive through to visit family, and last year on their reader board, they had: 'THEYRE BACK! PUMPKIN SPICE BRAKE PADS.'"
"And now I can never see anything pumpkin spice and not think about it, might have been my favorite reader board sign ever."
Pure Caffeine Addiction
"Energy drinks like Red Bull or Monster."
"I'm an avid Monster drinker, but I totally get it. I'm always trying new and interesting energy drinks I see, but so much of it is just garbage."
"The white Monster tastes like 90s Fresca to me and is the only energy drink I love."
"Can it be a beverage? Because I kind of hate IPAs but everyone else seems to love them. And I like beer, just not IPAs."
"I have nothing against people who want complex beers. It's just not for me. I want an easy as f**k to drink fizzy yellow beer for when it's hot out. And a nice smooth stout for all other times. When I want more complex flavors, I'll go for wine or scotch."
Just Too Expensive
"What about lobster? I can dig it with drawn butter and I ain’t mad at it. But f**k me if I’m gonna pay $29.99 for a lobster. I’d rather eat shrimp."
"Truffles. I paid $60 this weekend at an Italian restaurant for eight slivers on my pasta shaved in front of me. I barely tasted anything. I don't get the hype."
Improved Gut Health?
"Ah, yes, dirty pond water."
"Everyone goes crazy for caviar? Most people seem to dislike it."
"Though admittedly, people who do like it tend to like it a lot."
"That all being said, I really don't like it, either."
When it comes to food, to each their own, but it was interesting to see some undeniable fan favorites like pumpkin spice hit this list.
It just serves as a great reminder for a larger picture idea: Don't be unkind about the things that might bring someone else joy.
Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.
The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.
Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.
Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:
"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"
Redditors didn't see these coming.
Shiver Me Timbers
"I’m always cold now!"
"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."
"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."
"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."
"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"
"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."
"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”
"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."
Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight
"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."
"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."
"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."
These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.
"I can buy clothes in any store I want."
"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."
No More Symptoms
"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."
"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."
People Change Their Tune
"How much nicer people are to you."
"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"
"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"
"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"
It's gonna take some getting used to.
"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."
"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."
"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."
"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."
"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."
"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."
People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.
But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.
That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.