Emilia Clarke is arguably one of television’s most recognizable actors today. The 32-year-old busted onto the scene after being cast as a leading character in the global phenomenon, Game of Thrones, as Daenerys Targaryen. Between 2011-2019, Emilia became a household name because of her role. The actress has also been featured in a number of films over the years. However, it wasn’t until recently that the public became aware of Emilia’s battle with her brain.
In 2011 and again in 2013, Emilia Clarke suffered from two brain aneurysms while filming the early seasons of Game of Thrones. A brain aneurysm is a bulge or ballooning in a blood vessel in the brain. They are very serious if not treated. When a brain aneurysm leaks or ruptures, it causes bleeding into the brain (hemorrhagic stroke). A ruptured aneurysm can be life-threatening and even fatal if not treated immediately.
With the first instance, Emilia noticed the symptoms of a bad headache and noticeable fatigue. These symptoms quickly morphed into severe head pain and becoming violently ill. Emilia was fortunately sent to the emergency room just in time as she was diagnosed via an MRI scan with a ruptured subarachnoid hemorrhage, or a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. She was treated by undergoing a three-hour minimally invasive surgery called endovascular coiling, where the surgeon puts a wire through a femoral artery in the groin. After the surgery, Emilia suffered from aphasia and couldn’t even remember her own name. Aphasia is the loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. She eventually was released from the hospital and was fortunate to slowly regain her memory. However, doctors identified that Emilia has another smaller aneurysm, which could leak or rupture at any time.
The second aneurysm eventually ruptured in 2013 after a minimally invasive surgery failed to take care of it. The aneurysm had doubled in size and required an invasive surgery style, in which a neurosurgeon opened up Emilia’s skull. She spent well over a month in the hospital recovering from this surgery.
Brain aneurysms can form and affect anyone. People of older age, those with high blood pressure, or those who battled drug or alcohol abuse including cigarette smoking are at a greater risk. Aneurysms most commonly form at the base of brain, but they can form anywhere in the brain. The three phases of an aneurysm — ruptured, leaking and unruptured — all have unique symptoms. A ruptured aneurysm can cause: sudden, extremely severe headache, nausea and vomiting, a stiff neck, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, seizure, a drooping eyelid, loss of consciousness and confusion. Most of those who have experienced it describe it as the most painful and violent headache they have ever managed. A leaking aneurysm is often identified through a “sudden, extremely severe headache” while an unruptured aneurysm often shows no symptoms at all. Depending on the unruptured aneurysm’s size, it can cause pain above and behind one eye, a dilated pupil, change in vision or double vision or numbness to one side of the face, especially if it becomes large enough to impact brain tissue and nerves.
We are happy to see Emilia Clarke using her platform to share her story and see her make a full recovery.