Emilia Clarke Thought She'd 'Die On Live TV' After Multiple Brain Surgeries

harper's bazaar women of the year awards 2023 inside
Emilia Clarke Reflects On Multiple Brain SurgeriesMike Marsland - Getty Images

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

Emilia Clarke is opening up about the brain surgeries she’s had—and how she worried they'd change her life.

The Game of Thrones alum is reflecting on two brain aneurysms she experienced. The first happened in 2011, followed by the second in 2013.

“When you have a brain injury, because it alters your sense of self on such a dramatic level, all of the insecurities you have going into the workplace quadruple overnight,” she told U.K. magazine the Big Issue in an interview published June 10. “The first fear we all had was: ‘Oh my God, am I going to get fired? Am I going to get fired because they think I’m not capable of completing the job?’”

Emilia even worried she might have another hemorrhage over the pressure that comes with being an actress, remembering thinking, “Well, if I’m going to die, I better die on live TV.”

The 37-year-old is now thriving, but it wasn’t an easy road to good health. Here’s what she’s shared about her brain surgeries.

How many brain surgeries did Emilia Clarke have?

Emilia has had two brain surgeries—one in 2011 and the other in 2013. Her first surgery happened after she had an aneurysm, causing a stroke and a subarachnoid hemorrhage, with symptoms showing up while she was at the gym, she shared in an emotional 2019 essay for The New Yorker.

Emilia wrote in her essay that she couldn’t remember her name two weeks after her surgery. “In my worst moments, I wanted to pull the plug,” she wrote. “I asked the medical staff to let me die. My job—my entire dream of what my life would be—centered on language, on communication. Without that, I was lost.”

Luckily, the aphasia was temporary. She ultimately left the hospital after one month of recovery.

Emilia had a second and third surgery in 2013 after another aneurysm.

What caused Emilia Clarke’s brain damage?

Emilia didn’t have brain damage, per se, but she did have a brain injury caused by an aneurysm—and she founded a charity called SameYou afterward, which works to develop better mental health recovery treatment for survivors of brain injuries.

“One of the biggest things I felt with a brain injury was profoundly alone,” she said on SameYou's website. “That is what we’re trying to overcome.”

But Emilia has since learned to view her injury in a different light. “It has given me a superpower,” she told the Big Issue.

“The amount of my brain that is no longer usable, it's remarkable that I'm able to speak, sometimes articulately, and live my life completely normally without repercussions,” she told BBC One’s Sunday Morning in 2022. “I am in the really, really, really small minority of people that can survive that.”

What is the life expectancy of a person with a brain aneurysm?

The survival rate for a ruptured brain aneurysm is between 30 to 40 percent, according to the Cleveland Clinic. About 25 percent of people who have a ruptured aneurysm die within 24 hours and 50 percent die within three months.

Of those who survive, about 66 percent have permanent brain damage, the Cleveland Clinic says.

How long does it take to recover from a brain aneurysm?

Every person is different. However, recovery time for a ruptured aneurysm can be between several weeks and months, the Cleveland Clinic says.

You Might Also Like