Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke has opened up about surviving not one but two brain aneurysms while filming the hit fantasy TV series. In a candid interview with BBC One’s Sunday Morning show, Clarke – who played the dragon queen Daenerys Targaryen – expressed surprise that she can live a normal life after experiencing a traumatic brain injury.
“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.”
“There’s quite a bit [of my brain] missing,” she continued. “Which always makes me laugh. Because strokes, basically, as soon as any part of your brain doesn’t get blood for a second, it’s gone. And so the blood finds a different route to get around but then whatever bit is missing is therefore gone. Which kind of shows how little of our brains we use.”
Clarke suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage, a type of stroke brought on by bleeding around the brain, soon after the first season of Game of Thrones wrapped in February 2011.
Clarke underwent surgery following her stroke and reportedly suffered aphasia following the procedure. In 2013 however, she began experiencing terrible headaches and doctors were forced to operate once again to save her life.
"The amount of my brain that is no longer useful, it is remarkable that I'm able to speak and live my life normally. I'm in the really small minority of people who can survive that."
— Emilia Clarke for BBC One. pic.twitter.com/wy7GRC8UYj
— Emilia Clarke Updates (@emiliacupdates) July 17, 2022
Speaking to the New Yorker in 2019, Clarke revealed that she genuinely feared for her life during this time and recounted “screaming in pain” after another surgery went wrong.
“I went for surgery, another trip up the femoral artery to my brain. No problem,” she explained. “Except there was. When they woke me, I was screaming in pain. 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.”
Clarke was one of the lucky ones, though. She survived with her faculties intact, and she began to work for the charity, SameYou. SameYou aims to provide treatment for those recovering from brain injuries and strokes.