'Games of Thrones' ' Emilia Clarke Is Grateful for the Kindness of Nurses After Two Brain Hemorrhages

"Being there when someone is scared, confused or angry is one of the kindest things you can do," Emilia Clarke says in PEOPLE's first-ever Kindness Issue

These days, Emilia Clarke has a lot to be grateful for.

In PEOPLE’s first-ever Kindness Issue, the Game of Thrones‘ actress opens up about her painful recovery journey since her 2011 and 2013 aneurysms — and how she was able to overcome the difficult hurdles with the help of strangers and loved ones.

“It was a brain aneurysm that ruptured, and it was pretty traumatic,” Clarke, 33, says in this week’s issue. “The paramedics were unbelievable. They’d given me drugs so I was in less pain, wrapped me up like a tortilla and made me laugh the whole way to the hospital. There I was, bleeding in the brain, and there we were in this ambulance having an absolute giggle. They were so gracious.”

In March, the Last Christmas star revealed she underwent two life-saving brain surgeries over the past eight years to correct two different aneurysm growths. Clarke’s health problems started in February 2011, shortly after wrapping filming on the first season of HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones.

  • PEOPLE’s first-ever Kindness Issue is dedicated to highlighting the ways, big and small, that kindness can make a difference and change lives. Click here and pick up the issue, on stands Friday, Nov. 8, for more stories on the impact of kindness from Julia Roberts, Tiffany Haddish and other stars, as well as everyday people practicing kindness in their communities.

Sharing her story for the first time in an essay for The New Yorker, Clarke said that the surgeries were difficult and not always successful, nor was her recovery — at one point she wanted to “pull the plug” when she was unable to even remember her name.

emilia Clarke
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But despite her struggles, Clarke, who has since created a charity, SameYou, which raises money for people recovering from brain injuries and strokes, was slowly able to overcome the adversities with the support of her loved ones and medical team.

“There was also my mum, when she went into mum superpower in the hospital: I had aphasia [loss of speech], and she looked at me and went, ‘Yeah, I know exactly what you mean,’ ” the actress tells PEOPLE. “She made me believe she understood exactly what I was saying. It was genuinely her greatest moment.”

“And every single nurse I came across was so kind,” Clarke says. “It’s why I became ambassador to the Royal College of Nursing in 2018. Nurses are the unsung heroes, they’re at people’s most frightening moments.

“The whole experience inspired me to launch my charity SameYou,” she adds. “People’s lives are transformed completely after a brain injury, and the core of our work is recovery — it’s not just the first weeks that you need help, you still need help for years. I wanted to match someone with a consistent person who has the answers and can hold their hand and tell them that they’re not alone. Being there when someone is scared, confused or angry is one of the kindest things you can do.”

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