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Ellis battles illness, vows comeback

MANILA, Philippines —  High-flying Fil-Am Chris Ellis said yesterday non-stop muscle twitching is keeping him sleepless at night as he battles the effects of leptospirosis, a bacterial disease, but vowed to come back as “the best player in the world” with his PBA contract expiring this month.

Ellis, 28, was recently traded by Barangay Ginebra to Blackwater and hasn’t played a game for the Elite. When he showed up for his first Blackwater practice early this month, Ellis collapsed on the floor and was rushed to the De Los Santos Medical Center in an ambulance. He was confined in the hospital overnight and remains under close observation by nephrologist Dr. Brando Navidad who specializes in kidney issues. If left untreated, leptospirosis can lead to kidney damage.

“It’s been quite an experience,” said Ellis. “Could you imagine the timing of the two (trade and illness)? I somehow contracted leptospirosis leading up to the trade and on my first day of practice, I was rushed off in an ambulance. I never experienced that type of pain before. My cramps turned into intense, full-body convulsions that actually knocked me out. When I regained consciousness, my body was contorted. It was a life-changing experience for sure.”

Blackwater team manager Johnson Martinez said Ellis was severely dehydrated when he collapsed. “It was like he had cramps in every part of his body,” said Martinez. “We found out he was down with a bum stomach for a week. He was tested by doctors and leptospirosis was diagnosed. Fortunately, his condition stabilized after an overnight confinement so we’re now monitoring his progress. One of his Filipino cousins stayed with him in the hospital. We’re in constant communication with his agent (Charlie Dy).”

Ellis’ cellphone has been deactivated and communicates only through messages on Twitter and Instagram. He said he won’t be able to play for Blackwater in the Governors Cup playoffs. “I’m not playing the rest of this conference for sure,” he said. “It’s bigger than basketball for me right now. My focus is getting healthy. There is only now. I have no timetable to go back to the US at the moment. It’s just recovery. But when I step on a basketball court again, I’ll be the best player in the world.”

Ellis said Blackwater management is “fully aware” of his situation. Last Tuesday, he was checked by Dr. Navidad and ordered to rest and return in a week for more testing. Ellis called it “a crazy time in my life.”

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Dr. Navidad said Ellis was admitted to the hospital with acute renal failure. He said leptospirosis is a “reversible” disease and advised maximum medical attention for 30 days until Ellis’ serum creatinine level normalizes. “By that time, Mr. Ellis will be able and fit to report again at work in a manner supervised by a sports medicine specialist,” said Dr. Navidad.

Dy said Ellis is concerned about his situation and is following doctors’ orders strictly. “He actually went to Blackwater practice very early on his first day and was very excited,” he said. 

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