Emilia Clarke says she was scared of being fired from ‘Game of Thrones’ after brain aneurysms

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Emilia Clarke has felt the relatable pressure of fighting through health struggles for the sake of job security.

In a June 2024 interview with Big Issue, a U.K.-based magazine, the 37-year-old reflected on the stress of returning to work after having survived two brain aneurysms. According to the actor, her two severe health experiences occurred during the early seasons of her time on the HBO series "Game of Thrones."

Speaking to the outlet, she explained how, despite the critical brain injuries, she pushed through, knowing that her job could make or break her career.

“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 explained in her interview. “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?’”

Clarke has spoken about having survived two brain aneurysms in the past, the first in 2011 and the second in 2013. Read on for everything she's said.

2011 — Clarke experiences her first aneurysm

In a 2019 essay for The New Yorker, Clarke revealed that she’d experienced a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by a ruptured aneurysm not long after the first season of “Game of Thrones” had been under her belt.

“I started to feel a bad headache coming on. I was so fatigued that I could barely put on my sneakers,” she wrote at the time, explaining that the event happened while she was working out at a gym. "Somehow, almost crawling, I made it to the locker room. I reached the toilet, sank to my knees, and proceeded to be violently, voluminously ill. Meanwhile, the pain — shooting, stabbing, constricting pain — was getting worse. At some level, I knew what was happening: my brain was damaged."

Clarke underwent emergency surgery, which was followed by a one-month hospital stay and a difficult recovery period. During that time, doctors informed Clarke that she had a smaller aneurysm on the other side of her brain that could “'pop' at any time.”

"The doctors said, though, that it was small and it was possible it would remain dormant and harmless indefinitely," she explained. "We would just keep a careful watch."

Image: (HBO)
Image: (HBO)

2013 — Clarke survives a second, more severe aneurysm

Clarke described in 2019 her determination to keep her health status out of public attention.

In 2013, after wrapping up Season 3 of "Games of Thrones," she was working on Broadway and taking part in rehearsals when she went in for a brain scan. This had become a regular part of her routine due to concern for the second, small aneurysm in her brain. While there, she learned that the growth had doubled in size.

"The doctor said we should 'take care of it' I was promised a relatively simple operation, easier than last time," she explained ."I went for surgery, another trip up the femoral artery to my brain. No problem. Except there was. When they woke me, I was screaming in pain."

Clarke learned that the procedure had failed and doctors would have to immediately operate by going through her skull. She underwent a harder recovery time with what she described as "the constant worry about cognitive or sensory losses."

"Would it be concentration? Memory? Peripheral vision?" she explained. "Now I tell people that what it robbed me of is good taste in men. But, of course, none of this seemed remotely funny at the time."

2019 — Clarke talks about recovery and starts the SameYou foundation

Eight years after experiencing her first aneurysms, Clarke revealed her health struggles in her The New Yorker essay, which was titled “A Battle for My Life.” She described the physical and emotional toll of the aneurysms and her recovery process.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 7 (Andrew Lipovsky / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 7 (Andrew Lipovsky / NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

In her essay, Clarke described how her health and recovery pushed her into charity work.

"I’ve decided to throw myself into a charity I’ve helped develop in conjunction with partners in the U.K. and the U.S. It is called SameYou," she wrote. "It aims to provide treatment for people recovering from brain injuries and stroke. I feel endless gratitude—to my mum and brother, to my doctors and nurses, to my friends. Every day, I miss my father, who died of cancer in 2016, and I can never thank him enough for holding my hand to the very end."

2024 — Clarke takes her efforts to the next level

In her June 2024 interview with Big Issue, Clarke revealed that her foundation had paired up with Big Issue Recruit, a recruitment service, to expand its reach in lending support to survivors and their families.

“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,” Clarke explained in the interview. “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?’”

“Having a chronic condition that diminishes your confidence in this one thing you feel is your reason to live is so debilitating and so lonely,” Clarke explained. “One of the biggest things I felt with a brain injury was profoundly alone. That is what we’re trying to overcome.”

This article was originally published on TODAY.com