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How ‘Khaleesi’ Saved Emilia Clarke’s Life After A Near-Death Experience

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Emilia Clarke

Emilia Clarke has been nominated for her fourth Emmy this year, and is currently celebrating the resounding success of the HBO series that made her a household name. Game of Thrones has taken the lead with 32 award nominations this year, and a name in almost every category. This could mean big things for Clarke, whose character Daenerys Targaryen was a fan favorite on the show. However, Emilia Clarke had to face a battle of her own in order to continue as the Mother of Dragons.

Emilia Clarke Almost Didn’t Survive To See All Eight Seasons Of Game Of Thrones

Emilia Clarke has a slew of credits on shows prior to Game of Thrones. However, her role as Daenerys brought her to the limelight. So it might surprise some fans that Clarke went through a major health crisis and several surgeries during her time on the show. She revealed to E! News the first time she knew something was wrong: “On the morning of February 11, 2011, I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym … when I started to feel a bad headache coming on… My trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain… 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.” After she was rushed to the hospital, Clarke found out she had a subarachnoid hemorrhage, a type of aneurysm that is both rare and deadly. She told E! News that it wasn’t until she was in recovery from surgery that she found out how close she came to not surviving: “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. If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery. And, even then, there were no guarantees.” She suffered a second aneurysm during later filming, but luckily knew the signs and was able to treat it quickly.

Clarke’s Surgery Left Her Terrified During Press Tours

Emilia Clarke kept her health problems a secret during the majority of the time Game of Thrones aired on HBO. However, during an interview on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Clarke admitted she was “petrified most of the time.” She said she would practice her Dothraki lines in her head to regain cognitive function, and tried to stay away from the cameras so no one would know her struggles. It took Clarke many years before she was ready to open up about her health problems, but she says playing the powerful Mother of Dragons helped her to regain confidence. She told ET, “I’ve been lying about [the aneurysm] for a number of years. Every time anyone was like, ‘Where do you get your strength?’ I’m like, ‘Heavens, I have no idea.’ But [Daenerys] and I grew together and, it’s corny as hell, but she saved my life.”

Khaleesi Saved Emilia Clarke’s Life

Emilia Clarke broke the silence about her own medical trauma when she decided to found SameYou, a charity focused on increasing access to neurorehabilitation treatment for young adults. Her mission with SameYou is to give those in recovery from brain injuries the hope and courage to seek treatment and fully recover. Clarke believes that playing Daenerys helped her find that courage within herself, even when the rehabilitation process left her demoralized. In an interview with THR, she explained: “The main thing that happens after you’ve had a brain injury — paralysis and all of that aside — is that you have fatigue, which sounds like a fancy way of saying you’re tired, but it’s debilitating to the point of demoralizing. And you can’t look someone in the eye because it brings up shame. Most people don’t have the mother of dragons’ shoes to walk in to help them get out of it.” She went on to explain how the role made her brave and challenged her to fight despite the overwhelming doubt: “It [her role on Game of Thrones] literally forced me awake again and to look someone in the eye because I had to. It’s been an unbelievable blessing.” You can help Emilia Clarke see her vision come to life by donating to SameYou and helping young adults across the world receive access to neurorehabilitation services.

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