December 01, 2019
As she stars in this year’s Christmas feelgood movie, Emilia Clarke talks about the intense scrutiny of Game of Thrones, how she coped with the brain haemorrhage that almost killed her – and why we all need to escape reality sometimes
Emilia Clarke: ‘I didn’t want people to think of me as sick
Emilia Clarke had a headache. It was 2011, just before Valentine’s Day and just after she’d wrapped on the first series of Game of Thrones, playing Daenerys Targaryen, Breaker of Chains, Mother of Dragons. She didn’t yet know, as she crawled into the locker room of her local gym in north London and vomited bile into the toilet, that Game of Thrones would run for seven further seasons, break Emmy-award records for most wins for a scripted television series and for a drama, be named one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and quickly come to define her. But there was much she didn’t know.
She didn’t know that at 24 she had suffered a life-threatening stroke, a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH) caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. She didn’t know, as she lay on the floor repeating lines from Game of Thrones in order to test her memory, that a third of SAH patients die immediately, or that those who survive require urgent treatment to avoid a second, often fatal bleed. She didn’t know there was another swollen blood vessel in her brain, which had doubled in size by the time she finished filming season three. She didn’t know that one day, eight years later, over biscuits on her pink sofa, she would be smiling with the dark realisation that her stroke was one of the best things that could have happened to her.
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