Emilia Clarke has opened up about surviving two life-threatening aneurysms and how remarkable it is that she can live her lift completely normally, despite all that she’s been through.
In an interview with BBC’s Sunday Morning, Clarke went onto the show to promote her debut on the West End in the production of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull. But it was when she addressed her aneurysms that she shared more about her health struggles than she ever has before.
Describing the aneurysms as “the most excruciating pain”, she explained how working on Game of Thrones at the time, helped to “sweep me up and give me that purpose”.
Clarke survived her first aneurysm in 2011, which occurred in between seasons of the HBO fantasy show, and a second aneurysm in 2013. Both medical episodes resulted in incredibly long recovery periods in order to monitor the brain damage.
“The amount of my brain that is no longer usable—it’s remarkable that I am able to speak, sometimes articulately, and live my life completely normally with absolutely no repercussions,” she shared, adding, “I am in the really, really, really small minority of people that can survive that”.
Then, Clarke shared how it felt to look at the scans of her brain after each aneurysm, sharing that “there’s quite a bit missing”.
“[It] always makes me laugh… strokes, basically, as soon as any part of your brain doesn’t get blood for a second, it’s gone,” she explained. “So the blood finds a different route to get around, but then whatever bit is missing is therefore gone.”
Following both distressing medical episodes, the 35-year-old has thankfully begun a charity for brain injury and stroke victims, called SameYou. And after her aneurysms and rehabilitation process, she’s also realised how important it is to find love for herself.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is who you are. This is the brain that you have. So there’s no point in continually wracking your brains about what might not be there’.”
What exactly happened to Emilia Clarke?
The Game of Thrones alum first shared her story of her health scare through a personal essay for The New Yorker, titled “A Battle For My Life”. In the 2019 body of work, she explained how it all began when she collapsed during the break between season one and two of the hit show. She explained that the result of her collapse was because she had suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage at the age of 24.
“On the morning of February 11, 2011, I was getting dressed in the locker room of a gym in Crouch End, North London, when I started to feel a bad headache coming on,” she wrote.
Shortly after, the pain around her head felt as if “an elastic band were squeezing my brain” before it turned into “shooting, stabbing, constricting pain”, where she was forced to “crawl” back to the locker rooms.
“My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clark. But now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic,” she wrote.
“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 my worst nightmares, I wanted to pull the plug.”
A woman in the locker room quickly positioned her into the recovery position and called an ambulance. In hospital, she underwent an MRI, where it was discovered that she had suffered “a subarachnoid haemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening type of stroke, caused by bleeding into the space surrounding the brain”.
From there, a “minimally invasive” brain surgery took place, which was thankfully successful.
But come 2013, Clarke suffered another aneurysm while staring as Holly Golightly on Broadway, and this time, she knew her recovery wouldn’t be as easy as the first.
“While I was still in New York for the play, with five days left on my sag insurance, I went in for a brain scan—something I now had to do regularly. The growth on the other side of my brain had doubled in size, and the doctor said we should ‘take care of it’. I was promised a relatively simple operation, easier than last time,” she recalled. But this time, when she woke from the operation, she was “screaming in pain”.
In an appearance on CBS Sunday Morning, Clarke shared several images of her time in the hospital, depicting the jarring and harrowing circumstances she had found herself in.
Despite her being awake, she said that doctors had told her that “the procedure had failed”.
“I had a massive bleed and the doctors made it plain that my chances of surviving were precarious if they didn’t operate again. This time, they needed to access my brain in an old-fashioned way—through my skill. And the operation had to happen immediately”.
This time around, the recovery wasn’t as straightforward as the previous procedure, describing that the pain was “more gruesome than any that Daenerys experienced”.
“I thought, ‘This is it. My time is up; I’ve cheated death twice and now he’s coming to claim me’,” she said, sharing that the pain came before an interview with MTV. And that she had told her publicist about the pain she was feeling, but had to carry on despite it.
“But I survived. I survived MTV and so much more. In the years since my second surgery, I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred per cent.”
Now, she puts her focus into SameYou, in order to “help young adults become themselves again after brain injury and stroke”.