GOT Star's Medical Revelation Empowers Former Patient

- Theo Applebaum, Former Blythedale Children's Hospital Patient

young man in front of bicycle

I lived a normal, healthy and active life for fourteen years until I suffered a stroke caused by an unexpected brain hemorrhage.

I underwent life-saving surgery, but became partially paralyzed to the right side of my body. This was my lowest point, but I didn't know just how bad it was.

young man in stander

In the months that followed, I couldn’t even think about getting back to school. My body and cognitive skills were broken, and my mind was still getting use to that harsh fact.

I began intensive physical, occupational and speech therapies at Blythedale Children's Hospital during the day and at night I would watch TV.

I was depressed.

Then, came "Game of Thrones" on HBO.

I had already read George R. R. Martin’s books, but after my stroke I didn’t have the energy to read even pamphlets.

Seeing the characters brought to life on television and going through their own struggles was an escape for me. It was just what I needed in my recovery.

One of the many challenges I faced was the lack of knowing or seeing younger people who've had brain injuries and the stigma that went along with it. 

I felt like everyone I met was secretly, or not so secretly, judging me. I felt alone and less than my peers.

emilia clarke photo

So, when Emilia Clarke of "Game of Thrones" who plays Daenerys Targaryen, also known as Khaleesi, Breaker of Chains or Mother of Dragons, revealed that she also suffered a brain hemorrhage and stroke, like me, I felt instantly empowered. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

I think I had so many doubts about myself and my condition that I forgot that there are other people in the world.

Two years ago, my right side was useless and I couldn't speak or write, but just last summer I was able to bike 200 miles through Vermont and I plan on running the New York City Marathon in the future.

Today, I’m going to a rigorous school where I can express my love of "Game of Thrones" with paragraphs instead of jumbled up sounds. I also started to explore the arts by taking pictures and drawing. Even creating a digital illustration of Emilia Clarke from when she was on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" (left). 

emilia clarke drawing

I’m not saying everything is back to normal. I still struggle. I still have bad days. I still battle depression. I’m only human.

But compared to two years ago, I have grown by leaps and bounds.

When Emilia Clarke wrote her essay in The New Yorker about her battle with brain injuries it helped me tremendously to feel like I was no longer alone.

Thank you to the true “Breaker of Chains” for sharing your story.

To see Theo's journey, click here.