Emilia Clarke Opens Up About Surviving Two Brain Aneurysms

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In a new interview with the BBC’s Sunday Morning, actress Emilia Clarke discussed her experience surviving two brain aneurysms in 2011 and 2013, revealing that she has “quite a bit missing” from her brain as a result of them. “It was the most excruciating pain,” recalled Clarke, who experienced the aneurysms while starring as Daenerys Targaryen on HBO’s Game of Thrones from 2011–19. “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,” said Clarke. “I am in the really, really, really small minority of people that can survive that.”

Clarke, who is currently promoting her debut in the West End Theatre’s production of The Seagull, first opened up about her aneurysms in 2019, detailing the near-death experiences in a personal essay for The New Yorker. According to Clarke, the first aneurysm took place when she was 24, during a gym training session in London. After a three-hour surgery and a month in the hospital that included a bout of aphasia — the loss of the ability to understand or verbalize speech following brain damage — Clarke returned to work on season two of Game of Thrones, all while experiencing so much pain that she “sipped on morphine between interviews.” She spent another month in a Manhattan hospital in 2013, after receiving more invasive surgery to treat a growth in her brain. “In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes,” Clarke wrote in her essay. “I am now at a hundred per cent.”

During Sunday’s interview, Clarke, whose organization SameYou provides mental-health support to stroke and brain-injury survivors, reflected on her healing journey and on coming to terms with the part of her brain she’s lost. “I thought, Well, this is who you are. This is the brain you have,” Clarke said. “There’s no point in continually racking your brains about what might not be there.”

Emilia Clarke Opens Up About Surviving Two Brain Aneurysms