Emilia Clarke on her brain hemorrhage: I knew right away it meant brain damage

Two weeks ago, Emilia Clarke penned an incredibly well written essay for the New Yorker in which she revealed that she’d suffered two brain hemorrhages, two years apart, in between filming seasons of Game of Thrones. Her essay was masterful in that she managed to convey how painful and scary it was but she never sounded self-pitying and she didn’t even use flowery language. In an appearance on The Late Show this week, Emilia gave an extra detail about her hemorrhage which was not in her article. She said that she realized as it was happening that she was suffering brain damage and that she actively worked to try to counteract that. She was just as matter-of-fact in her description of that as she was in her writing. I am so impressed with her.

On her brain hemorrhages
I suffered two brain hemorrhages while we were filming. Right after we shot season one and right after we shot season three. The best way to describe it is it’s the worst headache a human could manage to experience.

What did you think was going on [as you experienced that]?
I genuinely knew I was being brain damaged. You’re incredibly ill and you’ve got this horrific headache. I knew that meant brain damage. I tried to keep as active as possible, move my fingers, toes, hands, ask myself questions. Really trying to force my memory to work to stay conscious.

How did you know that would help you?
The mind is an extraordinary thing. I just knew. Not today.

People die frequently from this. Did it change your attitude to life?
It made me petrified most of the time. At some point you start to realize how lucky you are. The perspective that gives you is enormous and that is for the rest of your life.

[From The Late Show]

Emilia is getting the most headlines for admitting she told her mom how Game of Thrones ended. Her mom has already forgotten though! My mom is like that, she would forget, and I would have told her too. Emilia said that after she read the final season she went for a walk for two hours because it was hard to take. She said it was really hard not to spoil the ending because she so wants to talk about it. (That must be what happened to Maisie Williams, although I heard that was an April Fool’s joke.) She also made fun of Kit Harrington because he always complains about his heavy cloak and the cold weather for when he films. She said she has to film in the heat all day and it’s way harder.

As for Emilia’s brain hemorrhages and realizing that she needed to keep active, I heard a fascinating story from Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist who had a stroke and realized as it was happening. She had the background to recognize and observe how she was processing information differently. Taylor wrote the book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey (I have not read it) where she describes having a stroke and her recovery. Emilia could easily write a book about everything she’s gone through and I’m sure it would be a bestseller.

Here’s Emilia’s interview!

Emilia has also started a charity called SameYou.org to help young adults recover from brain injuries. She’s asking other people to share their recovery stories.



Photos credit: Backgrid and Avalon.red

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17 Responses to “Emilia Clarke on her brain hemorrhage: I knew right away it meant brain damage”

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  1. LT says:

    I’ve read “My Stroke of Insight” – it’s fascinating. She talks about rewiring her brain to make new associations with words. Like…eating a PB&J to create a new association with what those words mean. She also said how the side of her brain which was the “doubting” side (the left, I think) was forever altered, and in her case, in a good way.

    It’s a good read and I’ve recommended it to many.

  2. Lara says:

    When I was 24 I suffered a cardiac arrest. I had always been healthy and it genuinely came out of nowhere. I was in a coma for 6 days. My family were told I would suffer brain damage due to the amount of time I went without oxygen. Waking up I had memory loss and other little things wrong but I worked everyday at getting it back. It was nothing like what happened to her and basically I want to say I think she’s amazing with the way she handled it and gone forward.

    I’ve since had further cardiac arrest and living with that fear that it might happen again which I suspect she lives with as well is hard. You get through it and you try your hardest.

    • Venus says:

      Holy cow, that must have been terrifying! We take our brains and bodies so much for granted and when things go spectacularly wrong, it’s hard to accept and move on with. I hope you’re okay now.

  3. Whatnow says:

    Godspeed Emilia.

    What causes a young girl to have hemorrhages like this?

    Do you have to take medicine or get check ups on the regular for rest of your life?

    Any symptoms to watch out for?

    • Emilia says:

      Could there be a genetic component? I can’t remember where but I think I read her mom has had one too.

  4. Udi says:

    Kudos to her for sharing this and starting that foundation. Raising awareness for health issues is the best way a famous person can harness their fame. Hope she stays healthy and keeps on thriving. Brave woman!!!

  5. Erinn says:

    Man, strokes scare me. I have a doctors appointment today – I tested my blood pressure the other day and it was VERY high – and I’ve had no issues with it before. There’s been a lot of stress in the last month or so, which would likely be a big contributing factor. But it terrifies me. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for my appointment this evening. I’m not even 29 yet – so it really freaked me out. But at the end of the day, I think this desk job is pretty much killing me. I’ve immediately started walking again, and cut down my caffeine intake to about half, and am avoiding as much unhealthy food as possible. But it’s scary to deal with any ‘unknowns’ health wise – and I can’t imagine what she was going through.

  6. Lightpurple says:

    It is so frightening when our bodies betray us. Wishing her all the best.

  7. Doodle says:

    When I was in my twenties, a coworker (also in her twenties) has a stroke while in the ER waiting room. She wasn’t seen because the doctors kept saying she was too young to have a stroke. Her recovery was long and difficult. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone and I’m glad Emilia is speaking about this.

  8. Darla says:

    She’s a lovely person and I hope she does well after this show.

  9. Lucy says:

    She’s a trooper. I know this is an unpopular opinion, but I loved her as Dany, and I’ll miss seeing her playing the character. Overall, though, I’m glad she’s alive and well.

    • MarcelMarcel says:

      I love her in the role too! I had to give up on the show because I found the violence against women too confronting. However, she’s my pick for the Iron Throne.

      I’m considering watching the last episode just to see her.

    • Alyse says:

      I love her irl and in GOT :)

  10. Miss M says:

    Dr. Taylor gave a great TED talk as well.

  11. Ann says:

    I’m happy to see brain health get some attention, although it’s terrible that this happened to Emilia Clarke, as it’s a terrible thing in general. I have epilepsy and share the fears Emilia is talking about. Brain injuries can make you feel like a prisoner in your own body. I had a pretty bad seizure earlier this year and couldn’t get my mouth to say the things I was thinking, like a combo of not remembering the right words and feeling like my tongue wouldn’t physically do what it needs to do to speak. Life goes on after but it’s definitely something that stays with you long after you’ve experienced it. I love that she has started this website and I hope she does write a book. No one can be fully prepared for something like this but the more information and support out there the better.

  12. SweetPea says:

    I love how she kept reciting Dothraki lines to keep active during the stroke. I’m so glad she’s doing well!