Emilia Clarke Reveals Intense New Photos of Brain Surgeries in CBS Interview

  • Emilia Clarke, known for her role as Daenerys Targaryen on HBO's Game of Thrones, revealed that she suffered two life-threatening brain aneurysms in a March 21 essay for The New Yorker.
  • Clarke shared new details and never-before-seen photos of herself after brain surgery during a CBS Sunday Morning interview.
  • Learn what a brain aneurysm is and how to spot the symptoms.

Last month, Emilia Clarke, most famous for her role as Daenerys Targaryen on HBO's Game of Thrones, wrote an essay for The New Yorker about how she experienced two life-threatening brain aneurysms after she finished filming the first season of the show.

Now, in a just-aired interview with CBS Sunday Morning, Clarke shared new details about her aneurysms and never-before-seen photos from her surgeries. "I was in the gym, and the most excruciating pain, like an elastic band just went like snap! in my head, like an enormous amount of pressure suddenly," Clarke told CBS Sunday Morning correspondent Tracy Smith. "And then very, very, very quickly I realized I couldn't stand and I couldn't walk. And in that moment, I knew I was being brain-damaged."


Check out Clarke's interview below to learn more about her brain surgeries:


Clarke, 32, also referred to that moment in the essay: "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 doesn't remember everything, but once she was at the hospital, an MRI revealed that she had suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage, aka a life-threatening stroke. Fortunately, it was caught in time so she was able to recover and return to work after six weeks to film season two. But little did Clarke know that there was another swollen blood vessel in her brain, which doubled in size by the time she finished filming season three.

This time, her surgery was more invasive (the doctors had to go through her skull).

"So, with the second one, there was a bit of my brain that actually died," Clarke continued in the CBS This Morning interview. "If part of your brain doesn't get blood to it for a minute, it will just no longer work. It's like you short circuit. So, I had that. And they didn't know what it was. They literally were looking at the brain and being like, 'Well, we think it could be her concentration, it could be her peripheral vision.'"

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https://www.prevention.com/health/health-conditions/a26898785/emilia-clarke-brain-aneurysm-game-of-thrones/

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YouTube/CBS Sunday Morning

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YouTube/CBS Sunday Morning

Now that Clarke is now back "at 100 percent," she wants others to be aware of her story through her new charity, SameYou, which focuses on neurorehabilitation for brain injury survivors. "I really, really, really am gonna put my heart, soul, and back into transforming after-care for brain injury recovery," Clarke said.

And, you can help Clarke spread awareness about brain aneurysms by learning about the symptoms—and what makes them so deadly. Here's everything you should know about brain aneurysms and how they're treated.

What is a brain aneurysm, exactly?

A brain aneurysm is a ballooning blood vessel in the brain, and if it bursts, it can cause bleeding, also known as a hemorrhagic stroke. Most brain aneurysms occur between the brain and the tissues covering it—also known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is what Clarke was first diagnosed with.

Think of it this way: An aneurysm is a weakness in the wall of one of your brain's blood vessels, Howard Riina, MD, a neurosurgeon with New York University's Langone Medical Center previously told Prevention. That weakness allows the blood vessel to push outward and form a bulge, much like an over-inflated balloon. Once it ruptures, the pressure and lack of blood can lead to unconsciousness and death.

"Until a rupture or leak occurs, many people are walking around with an aneurysm and don't know it," Dr. Riina explained. "Some data we have suggest 6 to 9 percent of the population have one."

It's unclear why Clarke suffered her first aneurysm at 24. While the specific causes of a brain aneurysm aren't known, some people are at higher risk than others, especially if they are older, smoke, have high blood pressure, or consume drugs and alcohol. If you have inherited connective tissue disorders, polycystic kidney disease, or a family history of brain aneurysms, you're also at an elevated risk.

What are they symptoms of a brain aneurysm?

A severe headache, which Clarke experienced during her workout with her trainer, is often the first sign of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. Often people describe it as the worst headache they've ever had, similar to being struck by a bolt of lightening. Some of the other most common symptoms of a brain aneurysm include the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Seizure
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Confusion

How is a brain aneurysm treated?

There are two different treatment options for a brain aneurysm: surgical clipping and endovascular coiling. These two procedures have risk of bleeding in the brain and loss of blood flow to the brain.

According to the Mayo Clinic, surgical clipping is a procedure in which a neurosurgeon removes a section of your skull to locate the blood vessel that's causing the aneurysm and then inserts a tiny metal clip on the neck of the aneurysm to stop it from leaking or bursting.

Endovascular coiling is a less invasive surgery and involves placing a catheter into an artery, usually your groin, that leads to the aneurysm. Then, the neurosurgeon pushes a soft platinum wire through the catheter leading to the aneurysm. The wire coils up in the aneurysm to seal the aneurysm from the artery. Some other treatment options for ruptured brain aneurysms include pain relievers, calcium channel blockers, and anti-seizure medications.

Toward the end of her essay, Clarke emphasizes that she is doing better than ever. "In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred percent. 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. I feel endless gratitude."

Health Editor, Prevention.com Alisa Hrustic has spent her entire career interviewing top medical experts, interpreting peer-reviewed studies, and reporting on health, nutrition, weight loss, and fitness trends for outlets like Women's Health and Men's Health, where she both interned and worked full-time. Tiffany Ayuda, a senior editor at Prevention and certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise, has specialized in fitness, health, and general wellness topics in her previously editorial roles at Life by Daily Burn, Everyday Health, and South Beach Diet.

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