GoT star almost dies in brain surgery

Emila Clarke is as tenacious as the character she plays on 'Game of Thrones'.

For the throngs of viewers hooked on the Game of Thrones (GoT) series, Daenerys Targaryen is a character who stands out as a survivor.

Sold by her brother as a sex slave to a tribe of vicious barbarians, she fights her way up to become known as “Daenerys of the House Targaryen,; the First of Her Name; The Unburnt; Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men; Protector of the Realm; Breaker of Chains; and Mother of Dragons”.

It is fitting then that British actress Emilia Clarke would play such an important role in the global hit series. Clarke, like her screen character, is also a fighter, having recently revealed how during two seasons of filming GoT she had endured not one but two life-threatening aneurysms which led to brain surgery.

On the morning of February 11 2011, Clarke said she felt a searing headache building as she got ready for a session with her trainer, and felt incredibly fatigued. She pushed through the first few exercises, but it all came to a sudden and serious halt when her trainer had her get down into a plank position.

“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,” she said in an essay she penned for The New Yorker.

An MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, after she was rushed to an emergency room, gave a quick diagnosis. It was a subarachnoid haemorrhage (a life-threatening type of stroke caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain) and required immediate brain surgery.

However, this would not be the last time surgeons would have to cut her skull open and poke around inside her head. Two years later, in New York, at one of her regularly scheduled brain scans, Clarke’s doctor picked up another large mass on the right side of her brain – and this time the surgery was almost near fatal.

But, just like her Game of Thrones character, Clarke pulled through.

“I looked as though I’d 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 Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.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.”

In the years since her second surgery, Clarke has healed beyond anyone’s most unreasonable hopes and is now at 100%.

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