2 Brain Aneurysms Changed Emilia Clarke’s Life, and Now She Wants to Help Others
At just 24 years old, Emilia Clarke suffered her very first aneurysm. It happened right after she finished filming the first season of Game of Thrones, the TV show that would propel her to world fame. Despite the physical and emotional toll of her surgeries and recovery, she was determined to go back to doing what she loved most, acting.
Her first aneurysm took place at the gym.
Soon after filming season 1 of Game of Thrones, Clarke began to feel the pressure Hollywood can put on your shoulders. To relieve the stress, just as many “television actors do,” she started working out. While in the locker room, she felt a headache, but she decided to push through it and began working with her trainer. Almost crawling, she returned to the bathroom and started feeling pain and nausea.
Soon after, she was rushed to the emergency room, and doctors couldn’t determine what was wrong. The MRI and brain scan confirmed that Clarke had suffered an aneurysm.
She went into emergency surgery, but this wouldn’t be her last.
Doctors worked on fixing her brain for the better part of 3 hours. When Clarke woke up, she couldn’t remember her full name, as she suffered from a condition called aphasia, the same one Bruce Willis had before his dementia diagnosis. It took the actress 1 week just to be able to recall her name.
2 years later, Clarke went in for a routine scan, something she now has to do regularly. A growth on the other side of her brain had doubled in size, and she had to go through another surgery — this time not through the minimally invasive femoral artery, but rather, through her skull, as bits of titanium were put inside of her.
The actress had lost all hope for a successful recovery.
Clarke spent one month in the hospital, trying to recover, but was overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks. It took immense strength and ambition for Clarke not to succumb to her illness and to come out on the other side of it stronger than ever.
“I have healed beyond unreasonable hopes. I am now at 100%,” Clarke confirmed in the years following the second surgery. “I am in the really, really, really small minority of people that can survive that.”
Emilia Clarke now wants to help others going through the same experience.
In 2019, Clarke and her mother founded the charity, SameYou, to support people recovering from brain injuries and strokes. Moreover, by openly discussing her experience, she raises awareness of how important research is in this field.
In 2023, Clarke and author/journalist/musician Clemency Burton-Hill joined forces to raise awareness and gather funds for the SameYou foundation. Both women are survivors of traumatic brain injuries, and they know firsthand how long-term care and support for sufferers are practically non-existent — and they want to change that.
Through it all, Clarke remained grateful and did not lose her sense of humor.
Considering the amount of her damaged brain, “It’s remarkable I’m still able to speak, sometimes articulately, and live my life completely normally with absolutely no repercussions”, the actress shared.
“I feel endless gratitude—to my mum and brother, to my doctors and nurses, to my friends. Every day, I miss my father, who passed in 2016, and I can never thank him enough for holding my hand to the very end,” she shared.
Doctors told her there were missing parts of her brain, but they didn’t know whether this affected her concentration or her peripheral vision. Emilia joked about it sharing, “I always say it’s my taste in men that’s no longer there! That’s the part of my brain, yeah, my decent taste in men.”