Last March, Emilia Clarke wrote a powerful essay revealing that she had experienced 2 life-threatening brain aneurysms. The injuries were treated through several painful surgeries, resulting in Clarke spending weeks at the hospital in recovery. Years after her recovery, Clarke remembers how her healthcare providers “saved her life” in a heartwarming letter. Emilia’s letter comes amidst thousands of healthcare workers, who are putting their best foot forward to save millions that have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You
Emilia’s letter is one amongst 100 celebrities who are expressing their gratitude for Britain’s National Health Service in Adam Kay’s new book. The book, Dear NHS: 100 Stories to Say Thank You, which will be out on July 9, is a collection of essays. It is dedicated to the thousands of cooks, cleaners, porters and medical staff working to defeat the coronavirus pandemic in the UK’s National Health Service.
“The memories I will hold dearest, though, are ones that fill me with awe of the nurses and doctors I knew by name. In the weeks after my first brain hemorrhage, we watched the passing of time. And the passing of patients in the Victor Horsley Ward. At the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in Queen Square, London,” Clarke wrote.
When she first discovered her illness
Clarke first revealed the news in a 2019 essay for The New Yorker. She explained that she had become “violently, voluminously ill” midway through a workout. A hospital MRI scan later diagnosed a life-threatening form of stroke known as a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH). It is caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain.
“If I was to live and avoid terrible deficits, I would have to have urgent surgery, and, even then, there were no guarantees.” said the actress.
Her heartfelt tribute
The emotional letter pays tribute to all the healthcare workers who supported her through a very hard time in her life. Emilia thanks the nurse who first suggested she have a brain scan. “She saved my life,” says Clarke. She goes on to thank “The surgeon whose skill, quick thinking and sheer determination” prevented the worst, “while never letting on how close to death I had been.”
Emilia had a special mention for her anesthesiologist, who she says “miraculously” kept her entire family giggling. She talked Clarke through “the process of what was about to happen to my brain and then counted me down from 10.”
The actress underwent a three-hour surgery and spent four days in an ICU following her sudden collapse. All this happened soon after she wrapped up filming the first season of Game of Thrones.
“I asked the medical staff to let me die”
The after-effects of the treatment were also devastating. As a result of her brain trauma, Clarke developed a condition called Aphasia which caused her to forget her own name. All of this has pushed her into a deep depression that left her wanting “to pull the plug” on her life. “I asked the medical staff to let me die,” she confessed.
Her letter to the NHS goes on to describe how the hospital staff pulled her through those dark days. Including the children’s phlebotomist who was drafted in to take blood from her “tiny hidden veins.” Clarke also has a special message of gratitude to the hospital cleaners “who mopped the floor when my bedpan fell to the ground. Shame and embarrassment filling the room along with disinfectant, and then a reassuring smile and a knowledge that they’d seen worse.”
Emilia even thanked the cooks, “who made my fish in white sauce with peas every day, despite it being a child’s meal.” Yet it is the “countless unthanked nurses” who receive most gratitude from Clarke. Particularly those who put her in pajamas “with as much kindness as if I had been their own daughter,” she says. “In all those moments, over those three weeks, I was not ever, truly alone,” she writes.
All author and publisher profits from the book are going to NHS Charities Together and the Lullaby Trust, which supports parents of babies and young children who have died.
Back in 2019, Emilia announced the charity she’d founded called Same You. It aims to boost “primary research with the Stroke Association UK to understand the recovery needs” of people who experience brain injuries and strokes, particularly young people.
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