Thursday, June 1

Emilia Clarke reflects on “remarkable” ability to speak despite losing “quite a bit” of her brain to aneurysms

About a decade after undergoing surgeries for two ruptured aneurysms, Emilia Clarke revealed that “quite a bit” of her brain no longer functions. The actor called her complete recovery from repeated bouts of internal bleeding “remarkable” in a recent interview.

Known best for her long tenure on the HBO Max series “Game of Thrones,” Clarke reflected on the life-threatening health challenges she faced in her mid-twenties during an appearance on BBC Sunday Morning this week. As Clarke has previously shared, she was hospitalized in 2011, and again in 2013, for brain hemorrhages that could have been fatal without surgical repair.

“It was the most excruciating pain,” Clarke explained in her conversation with the BBC, referencing the severe headache that came on suddenly during a workout in February of 2011, when she had just finished filming the first season of “Game of Thrones.” The rupture was detected early and prompt treatment allowed Clarke to return to work weeks later, but she faced complications of another aneurysm two years after that, which was more serious.

“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.”

She noted that, despite making a full recovery, parts of her brain became permanently inaccessible after the second hemorrhage. The aneurysm, which is a swollen blood vessel that can burst and cause a stroke, had been identified during a routine brain scan after her initial surgery and grown to such an extent by 2013 that doctors recommended another surgery to treat it. However, that procedure led to more bleeding and warranted another, more invasive surgery.

Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke arrives for the “Game of Thrones” eighth and final season premiere at Radio City Music Hall on April 3, 2019 in New York City.

Angela Weiss /AFP/Getty Images

“There’s quite a bit missing, which always makes me laugh,” Clarke said, speaking about her brain. “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.”

Clarke first spoke publicly about her medical scares in the spring of 2019, when she penned a personal essay about both aneurysms for the New Yorker, titled “A Battle for My Life.” She shared more about those experiences in a CBS Sunday Morning interview that was taped around the same time.

“With the second one, there was a bit of my brain that actually died,” Clarke said, adding, “If a part of your brain doesn’t get blood to it for a minute, it will just no longer work. It’s like you short circuit.”

“So, I had that. And [doctors] didn’t know what it was,” she continued. “They literally were looking at the brain and being like, ‘Well, we think it could be her concentration, it could be her peripheral vision [affected].’ 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.”

Clarke said at the time that the surgery left her with “a deep paranoia” over whether it would prevent her from continuing a career as an actor. But she went on to star in multiple additional seasons of “Game of Thrones,” as well as a number of movies.

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