Emilia Clarke Admits Parts Of Her Brain Are “Missing” After Life-Threatening Aneurysms

“Strokes, basically, as soon as any part of your brain doesn’t get blood for a second, it’s gone.”

Emilia Clarke Is "Missing" Parts Of Her Brain After Aneurysms During 'Game Of Thrones' Era
Angela Weiss/AFP/Getty Images

Emilia Clarke just opened up about the life-threatening brain aneurysms that she endured while filming the hit HBO series Game of Thrones roughly a decade ago. The 35-year-old actor was most thankful that she recovered at all given the severity of the incidents, she revealed on BBC’s Sunday Morning program, adding that the aneurysms had rendered “quite a bit” of her brain useless. “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,” Clarke said. “I am in the really, really, really small minority of people that can survive that.”

Clarke sustained her aneurysms in 2011 and 2013 while filming Game of Thrones, where she became a household name playing the Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen. Clarke credits the series with grounding her during her darkest days. “It was the most excruciating pain,” Clarke said. “It was incredibly helpful to have Game of Thrones sweep me up and give me that purpose.” Both of the medical episodes required long recovery periods, and she was shocked when she saw the scans of her brain. “There’s quite a bit missing,” Clarke said before diffusing the situation with a laugh. “Strokes, basically, as soon as any part of your brain doesn’t get blood for a second, it’s gone. So the blood finds a different route to get around, but then whatever bit is missing is therefore gone.”

Emilia Clarke and Daniel Monks in July 2022. David M. Benett/Getty Images Entertainment

Clarke opened up about her life-threatening injuries for the first time in 2019, when she penned an essay in the New Yorker titled “A Battle For My Life.” She first felt the pain of the aneurysm while working out with her trainer after the first season of Game of Thrones wrapped. “My trainer had me get into the plank position, and I immediately felt as though an elastic band were squeezing my brain,” she remembered. She went to the hospital and was diagnosed with a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life-threatening stroke that claims the lives of one-third of patients.

She was 24-years-old when the first aneurysm occurred, and during recovery she suffered from aphasia that rendered her unable to remember simple details about her life. “I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name,” she said in the essay of the fear she felt about memory loss. In the ten years since her brain injuries, Clarke has dedicated herself to victims of brain injuries and strokes by way of her charity SameYou. The charity aims to “create the missing emotional & mental health recovery services essential for brain injury & stroke survivors.”

In 2022, Clarke is healthy and looking forward to the next phase of her career that is taking her to the stage: She’s starring in the West End production of The Seagull, which opened on July 6 at the Harold Pinter Theater, with actor Daniel Monks. She’s in especially good spirits about her health, she told BBC’s Sunday Morning: “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.”