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I lost my charismatic star husband, Bill, to aphasia

Actor Chris Ellison, as hard-nosed brass DCI Frank Burnside in The Bill, is also known for his laconic thoughts.

But now Chris, 75, has been thrown into the world of Twilight with the same speech-debilitating disease as the Hollywood action movie Bruce Willis.

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“It’s awful, we were so lonely,” said Chris’ wife Anita.Credit: Oliver Dixon
Hollywood legend Bruce Willis has revealed that he has aphasia - a condition that affects parts of the brain and the ability to communicate

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Hollywood legend Bruce Willis has revealed that he has aphasia – a condition that affects parts of the brain and the ability to communicatecredit: Getty

Actor DeHard Bruce, 67,’s decision to disclose his aphasia inspired Chris, 75, to share his diagnosis, which few family and friends knew about.

Aphasia is when parts of the brain associated with language are damaged and can sometimes occur after a stroke or head injury.

Kris’s wife Anita, 69, told The Sun on Sunday: “It’s awful, we felt so lonely. Kris is trapped in his body. He can understand everything that is going on around him but he can’t speak, read or write.

He hasn’t said anything in 18 months. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lost my very attractive, very funny, and caring husband.

Bruce Willis Romer's daughter shares a pic amid a diagnosis of aphasia
His daughter says Bruce Willis will stop working after being diagnosed with aphasia

“It’s frustrating for both of us but when he looks in my eyes I see he’s still there. I cried Buckets, he’s kind of mourning. But he’s still here with us, still very caring and loving.”

Chris was diagnosed with aphasia after suffering a severe stroke in the summer of 2020.

A devoted wife of 42 years, Anita, found him on the floor of their bedroom in their Brighton home and “realized immediately that he had had a stroke”.

The ambulance crew couldn’t move his body down their narrow spiral staircase, so they took him through a skylight before being airlifted to the hospital.

But the doctors could not safely remove the blood clot and told Anita to “prepare for the worst”.

She remembers her voice reverberating: “Chris couldn’t move his tongue, he couldn’t move anything. Paramedics warned it might not last the night.”

But he survived and within two weeks was taken to a rehabilitation center in nearby Haywards Heath, where he learned to walk and feed himself again.

But since then it has been a long road to recovery.

“His face was falling to the right side and he was constantly dodging and in a wheelchair for a while,” Anita says.

“When he learned to eat again, he ate like a small child, with his hands, and threw food at him everywhere. When he was trying to shave, he was holding the razor the wrong way.”

He is also now learning the alphabet.

It was in the rehab center where Chris was diagnosed with aphasia, after a visit from the charity Say Aphasia.

Sufferers can also have a hard time understanding others – but not Chris.

When we discuss The Bill – the ITV police series that starred for ten years in the ’80s and early ’90s – he grins from ear to ear and pipes out: “Burnside!”

It’s awful, we were so lonely. Chris is trapped in his body. He can understand everything that is going on around him but cannot speak, read or write.

Anita Ellison

Thanks to his support for children Lewis, 40, Francesca, 32, and caregiver Grace Whittingham, 21, he put his hand on the heart and whispered: “Lucky.”

But when he first came home with his newly diagnosed aphasia, in November 2020, he was too nervous to leave the house.

A local celebrity in Brighton, he was afraid to meet people and not being able to participate.

“When you’re a celebrity, people get to know you,” Anita says. “So when we go out, they go, ‘Hey, Chris,’ and it brightens my look.

“He hated it, he couldn’t even say hi. He ended up not going out, he didn’t want to see friends. We saw so little but it was frustrating for him. He was too aloof for us.”

His former co-star on The Bill, Mark Wingate, who played director Jim Carver, was a huge support.

“He calls and when Chris hears his voice, he takes the elevator,” Anita says.

Anita, who worked as a model for TV shopping channel QVC, became a full-time caregiver for Chris but admits she struggled.

“I called the Stroke Association and said, ‘I need help because I’m losing patience,'” she says.

“They sent me details of the groups, but I don’t have time to come. I called the doctor and said, ‘I don’t want to be here. I got really depressed, because life is so different now.'”

I am determined to get my Chris back. We will be back the good times. Love and determination will see us through.

Anita Ellison

“But I am determined to get my Chris back. We will bring the good times back. Love and determination will see us through.”

Their home, overlooking Brighton’s waterfront, is still full of Chris – including the talented artist’s marine paintings and several Charles Dickens novels.

Anita says, “Chris was a very talented artist. He painted every day. He also loved sailing, cycling, swimming and cooking – and he would read a book every day. There was always noise in our house. We often entertained. He was life and soul, the joke teller. But she Now calm.”

Neuroscientist and author Dr Julia Jones says aphasia affects more than 350,000 people in the UK and there is no definitive cure but treatments can help – including music and, if possible, writing and drawing.

Anita hopes it helps to talk about Chris’ condition.

She says: I want whoever comes to him to talk to him even if he can’t answer. I hope he breaks the silence.

“I also hope to say that he has aphasia will help all the people who have it to understand more.”

Chris' wife Anita said,

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Chris’ wife Anita said, “I am determined to get my Chris back.Credit: Carlton TV
Bruce's decision to disclose aphasia inspired Chris to share his diagnosis

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Bruce’s decision to disclose aphasia inspired Chris to share his diagnosiscredit: Getty

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