Emilia Clarke

Profiles of Aphasia: Emilia Clarke

32-year-old Emilia Clarke is Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, on Game of Thrones, and an aneurysm survivor. She revealed last week in a powerful New Yorker essay that she experienced two aneurysms after finishing the first season of the show. The first left her with aphasia.

We’ve been profiling well-known people with aphasia, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Gabby Giffords. We’ve now turned our attention to actress, Emilia Clarke.

It Started with a Headache

Clarke writes about the day of the first aneurysm. She was working out and had a bad headache. Clarke was able to crawl to the bathroom where she began vomiting. She was taken to the hospital where she learned she was having a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Her aphasia began while recuperating in the first two weeks after her first surgery. A nurse asked her name. She writes:

My full name is Emilia Isobel Euphemia Rose Clarke. But now I couldn’t remember it. Instead, nonsense words tumbled out of my mouth and I went into a blind panic. I’d never experienced fear like that—a sense of doom closing in. I could see my life ahead, and it wasn’t worth living. I am an actor; I need to remember my lines. Now I couldn’t recall my name.

In the New Yorker article, she explains aphasia: “I was suffering from a condition called aphasia, a consequence of the trauma my brain had suffered.” Her aphasia resolved on its own after another week in the ICU, but it wasn’t her only surgery.

A Second Aneurysm

The second aneurysm was found at the same time as the first, but it wasn’t operated on until years later. When it grew in size, doctors recommended a procedure that unfortunately didn’t work, and then invasive brain surgery. She had another month-long recovery in the hospital.

Today, she does work with SameYou, her UK organization focused on brain injury recovery. The charity works to increase rehabilitation access after a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

She writes on her site:

The degree to which people can adapt and face the future after neurological trauma is dependent on the quality and provision of rehabilitation care. While I was recovering, I saw that access to integrated mental and physical health recovery programmes is limited and not available to all. So I have founded SameYou.

It’s a wonderful outcome of a difficult experience.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Wikicommons Media



  • Ted Boren
    March 28, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I think what you did wonderful. I had a stroke 9 years ago. I do the Aphsia work book. I think they are a wonderful.

  • Peter Martin
    April 24, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you. We had no idea of your illness. May you use your platform to continue to advocate. Your story is inspiring. Our prayers for your continued health and healing… the Martins (survivor & caregiver)

  • Sharon Sundman-schultz
    April 24, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I am a Speech-Language Pathology graduate student. I am cheering you on!!!

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