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Winter is Coming: Nursing Edition

Image from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 2, Episode 4


If you’re a part of the 30 million people that watch HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s likely that you’re patiently waiting for the beginning of the final season to air. If you haven’t seen the show before, we must warn you now: this blog contains spoilers to some of the pivotal moments in previous seasons.

Throughout the show of Game of Thrones (GOT), it’s not uncommon for the key characters to get badly hurt or injured in battle, or through other unfortunate circumstances, and to go through a healing and recovery process.

Battlefield Nurse

While the majority of the nurses in GOT are “sisters,” one of them was a battlefield nurse: Talisa Maesyr Stark. Talisa appears in Seasons 2 and 3 as healer on the battlefields of the Westerlands, where she meets Robb Stark, King of the North, and falls in love with him.

When she was a young girl, she was taking care of her little brother when all of a sudden, he went missing. Talisa finds him face down floating in the water, and she and a friend pull him ashore. A slave sees the boy and runs over to start doing chest compressions and eventually revives him. Talisa was inspired by this act of bravery and decides that she would obtain medical training and swore to never live in a place where slavery was legal again.

In one of her battlefield scenes in Season 2, Talisa tends to a wounded Lannister soldier after the Battle of Oxcross, where she finds that his foot needs to be amputated. King Robb Stark helps her by holding the man down and giving him a gag to bite on. Robb mentions near the end of the scene that the soldier was lucky to have her there.

Character Injuries & Recoveries


bran_starkeImage from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 1, Episode 1

Brandon (Bran) Stark, who is the second son of Lord Eddard Stark and Lady Catelyn Tully, was a young boy when he climbed up a tower to feed some crows and witnessed Queen Cersei Lannister and her brother, Jaime, having an affair through a window. Jaime rushes to the window and pushes Bran out of the window, intending to kill him and keep the love affair a secret. However, Bran survives the fall and enters into a coma.

  • Type of Injury: Spinal cord injury, resulting in paralysis
  • Recovery Process: Bran is bedridden while in coma and, eventually, wakes up to find himself paralyzed; for multiple seasons, Bran is carried (or put in a wheelbarrow) by friends and family until he finally receives access to a wheelchair in Season 7
  • Current Day Treatment: Current treatment for a spinal cord injury that results in paralysis is working with a physical therapist on rehabilitation, which usually consists of strengthening existing muscle functions, redeveloping fine motor skills (if needed) and learning adaptive techniques to accomplish daily tasks


jamie_lannisterImage from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 3, Episode 7

While Jamie Lannister (the "Kinglsayer"), brother to Queen Cersei Lannister, is being held captive in exchange for the Stark daughters’ freedom, he manages to get free for a moment, grabs a sword, and challenges Brienne of Tarth to a duel. This prompts the interest of some nearby men who are part of Roose Bolton’s bannermen and one of them named Locke cuts off Jaime’s right hand.

  • Type of Injury: Cut off hand, amputation
  • Recovery Process: After Jaime loses his hand, he is treated by a former maester named Qyburn; he dresses and treats Jaime’s infected wrist and is able to prevent the infection from spreading to Jaime’s arm
  • Current Day Treatment: Similar to what was done in the tv series, the patient’s limb would be wrapped by a dressing and changed regularly; the patient would then receive medication to ease the pain and help prevent infection; physical therapy, beginning with stretching exercises would also be implemented


arya_starkeImage from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 7

Arya Stark, one of the daughters of Lord Eddard Stark, is found wondering through the town of Braavos when she is suddenly stabbed in the gut by a character called the Waif, who is an helper of the Faceless Men serving in the House of Black and White. The Waif, at the time of the stabbing, was disguised as an old, feeble woman. Arya manages to escape and is found by Lady Crane, who then takes Arya to her home and heals her.

  • Type of Injury: Abdominal stab wound
  • Recovery Process: Arya is taken into Lady Crane’s home where she dresses Arya’s wounds, feeds her, and gives her milk of the poppy, which is a powerful liquid medicine that acts as both a painkiller and an anesthetic
  • Current Day Treatment: Many believe that Arya’s survival of this stabbing scene is too good to be true; even with current-day medical technology, surviving several stab wounds to your abdominal region would be tricky; surviving this stab wound would most likely mean undergoing a big surgery in a sterile, hospital environment


greyscaleImage from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 7, Episode 2

In Season 5, Jorah Mormont, who is mostly known for protecting Queen Daenerys Targaryen, contracts Greyscale, a mostly fatal disease that leaves your skin cracked, dead, and stone-like to touch. Tyrion Lannister and Jorah were sailing through Valyria when they were ambushed by the stone men. As Jorah fights them off, Tyrion is pulled into the water. Jorah eventually saves Tyrion and pulls him ashore. However, Jorah was touched on the wrist by one the stone men, which left him infected with the disease.

  • Type of Injury: Contracting a contagious, fatal disease
  • Recovery Process: By Season 7, we find Jorah in the Citadel, where he is accompanied by Samwell Tarly, who is training to become a maester; while researching in the library, Sam finds a cure to the fatally contracted disease; however, the cure is meticulous and dangerous and involved Sam cutting away Jorah’s infected skin layer with a scalpel and then placing medicinal ointment on the exposed tissue; Sam’s procedure is successful and Jorah is healed
  • Current Day Treatment: Greyscale is fictitious disease that was created for the popular tv series, and there aren’t many real infectious diseases that closely relate; The closest disease to this would probably be leprosy, which is now treatable with antibiotics


the_houndImage from: HBO Game of Thrones, Season 6, Episode 7

While facing off in a duel against Brienne of Tarth, Sandor Clegane (The Hound) is badly injured as his ear is bitten off by Brienne and she sends him rolling down a cliff, breaking several bones, including one that ends up protruding from his leg. The scene ends with the Hound lying in the mud, crippled by the fall and leaves the audience wondering if he will survive.

  • Type of Injury: Open (compound) fracture wound
  • Recovery Process: After the Hound is left for dead, Septon Ray finds him nearly lifeless with a broken leg and covered in bugs; while Ray began to bury him (thinking he was dead), the Hound coughed and then Ray loaded him onto a wagon, took him home, and nursed him back to health
  • Current Day Treatment: Even in today’s society, having an open fracture wound for days would have likely resulted to a serious infection and would have ultimately led to the Hound losing his leg or even his life; in today’s world, a broken leg would result in an immediate trip to the emergency room and a long recovery of physical therapy; and while immobilization heals most broken bones, there’s also a chance you may need to receive surgery

Leading Cause of Death in GOT

Now that we’ve spent a good deal of time talking about key character injuries, wouldn’t you like to know the leading cause of death in Game of Thrones?

After documenting every character death from the first seven seasons, researchers found that 56.4 percent of them were key characters and their deaths were classified as “injuries.” The most common of these “injuries” being wounds to the “head and neck region,” and the second most common injury being burns and poisonings.

So, if key character deaths are over 50 percent, wouldn’t you like to know how to survive in the Game of Thrones? Researchers have pinned it down to a few things: First, nobles died at a lower rate than commoners; second, women died at a lower rate than men; and third, switching allegiances is a winning survival strategy.

If you don’t think you’re ready to survive in the Game of Thrones just yet, that’s fine with us because we feel our rate of survival is higher in the real world as well. Plus, having hospitals with professionally trained and certified doctors and nurses is an added bonus.  

First Ambassador of Nursing

Speaking of real life, Emilia Clarke, who plays one of the lead character roles in Game of Thrones as Queen Daenerys Targaryen, was announced recently as Nursing Now’s first ever Ambassador of Nursing. Nursing Now is an international organization that is run in collaboration with the International Council of Nurses and the World Health Organization.

In an announcement with Nursing Now, Clarke wrote:

"I am privileged to be asked to join Nursing Now’s global movement by becoming their Ambassador and help them empower nurses to lead, to learn and to strengthen the profession around the world. I believe strongly in the need to raise the profile and status of nursing to help improve health globally."

"I know from personal experiences, and my work with the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), that nurses are the backbone of healthcare services. However, they are undervalued and with policy change could achieve so much more in prevention and healing."

"Nursing Now aims to enable nurses to work to their full potential and have an even greater impact on health. Worldwide, this means investing in nurses so they can take on leadership positions in clinics and in primary and community care. They should also be empowered to play a greater role in prevention, promotion and health literacy and increase the provision of midwifery, child and adolescent services. In addition, very close to my heart, is their goal to increase the numbers of advanced level practitioner nurses to help recovery inside and outside hospitals."

As an Ambassador of Nursing, Clarke will represent the organization that works to bring awareness of all the hard work and dedication that nurses around the world contribute to our society each day.

game_of_thrones_tapestryPhoto by: Kal242382

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