32-year-old Emilia Clarke is Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, on Game of Thrones, and an aneurysm survivor. She revealed last week in a powerful New Yorker essay that she experienced two aneurysms after finishing the first season of the show. The first left her with aphasia.

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. We’ve now turned our attention to actress, Emilia Clarke.

It Started with a Headache

Clarke writes about the day of the first aneurysm. She was working out and had a bad headache. Clarke was able to crawl to the bathroom where she began vomiting. She was taken to the hospital where she learned she was having a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Her aphasia began while recuperating in the first two weeks after her first surgery. A nurse asked her name. She writes:

My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. But now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. I’d never experienced fear like that—a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.

In the New Yorker article, she explains aphasia: “I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered.” Her aphasia resolved on its own after another week in the ICU, but it wasn’t her only surgery.

A Second Aneurysm

The second aneurysm was found at the same time as the first, but it wasn’t operated on until years later. When it grew in size, doctors recommended a procedure that unfortunately didn’t work, and then invasive brain surgery. She had another month-long recovery in the hospital.

Today, she does work with SameYou, her UK organization focused on brain injury recovery. The charity works to increase rehabilitation access after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

She writes on her site:

The degree to which people can adapt and face the future after neurological trauma is dependent on the quality and provision of rehabilitation care. While I was recovering, I saw that access to integrated mental and physical health recovery programmes is limited and not available to all. So I have founded SameYou.

It’s a wonderful outcome of a difficult experience.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikicommons Media