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Emilia's story

Emilia Clarke MBE survived two brain aneurysms while filming Game of Thrones in the role of Daenerys Targaryen, also known as Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Lady of Dragonstone, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons. In 2011, aged 24, she had just finished filming season 1 when she was struck by the first of two aneurysms. Emilia said: “I am hardly unique or alone in that. 1 in 3 people will suffer a brain injury in their lifetime. That number is huge. It’s almost double the number of people who will develop dementia. It’s shocking to me - and you too, probably - that such a common health problem is so little known and barely spoken about.”

Picture of Emilia ClarkeEmilia was training in a London gym when she started experiencing a shooting, stabbing head pain and was extremely ill. Once at the hospital, an MRI provided a quick diagnosis: a subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), a life- threatening type of stroke, caused by a ruptured aneurysm and resulting in bleeding into the space surrounding the brain. She had lifesaving brain surgery to seal off the aneurysm, as there was a risk of a second, often fatal bleed.

While recovering in the hospital, Emilia experienced aphasia, a communication disorder triggered by the head trauma she had experienced. This was highly unsettling as her entire career relied on language and remembering lines, which she could not do for a while.

After a month in hospital, aphasia subsided, and she was released back home. She felt fortunate as she was also aware that there were many others who didn’t make it out of the I.C.U.

Battling pain, fatigue and an array of symptoms, she threw herself back into work, but it wasn’t without struggles. Then in 2013, after filming Season 3 of Game of Thrones, a brain scan revealed that a second aneurysm which was being monitored since the initial brain bleed had doubled in size and required preventative surgery. The coiling of the second aneurysm failed and resulted in a massive bleed which required another urgent procedure. This time, the medical team needed to access the brain through her skull. Emilia told the New Yorker: “I emerged from the operation with a drain coming out of my head. Bits of my skull had been replaced by titanium.”

The pain was worse than after the initial surgery and there were constant worries about cognitive or sensory losses. Emilia suffered from anxiety, panic attacks and said she felt like a shell of herself.

In the years since her second surgery, Emilia has healed beyond her hopes. After keeping quiet about her experiences for years, Emilia felt it was time to talk about her experience to help break the stigma around brain injury. That led her to co-founding, alongside her mum, Jenny, a brain injury recovery charity which we now know as SameYou.


Brain injury facts

Brain injury facts  Brain injury facts

Brain injury facts  Brain injury facts


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How SameYou was founded

The idea of starting a charity came from Emilia’s family taking turns sitting on an old broken chair while they were supporting her in hospital. They made the pledge to buy the hospital a new sofa once Emilia got better, for other families who were facing their darkest hour.After her second lifesaving brain surgery, they felt they had to give back somehow.  

When a person suffers a brain injury their life is saved by emergency medical services, but in most countries, ongoing recovery care and mental health support can be hard to find, extremely limited or simply unavailable. That’s how the idea of a charity aimed at supporting people going through similar experiences took shape. That idea eventually led to Emilia co-founding and launching SameYou in 2019.


SameYou's work

SameYou is a brain injury recovery charity that works to develop better mental health treatment for survivors, raises awareness and advocates for change.

SameYou’s mission is to pilot recovery innovations that bring immediate benefits to brain injury survivors and their families. It operates with a small team and works with powerful partners globally to launch ground-breaking therapies and lead vital research into brain injury that wouldn’t be funded otherwise.

The work includes delivering education for healthcare professionals; return to work coaching programmes; delivering real-time group rehabilitation services; developing a digital library of self-help resources plus a mental health volunteering program for people recovering from brain injury, and their loved ones.

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