Denise Nickerson’s Son Says ‘Willy Wonka’ Star Is ‘Immobile’ After ‘Massive Stroke’
Denise Nickerson, who played the human blueberry Violet as a child actress in the beloved 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, can’t walk or talk after a massive stroke, her son Josh Nickerson told RadarOnline.com in an exclusive interview.
“My mother had a massive, massive stoke and she’s not fully cognizant,” Josh revealed on Wednesday, July 11 about his mom, who is in a hospital ICU.
Sadly, 61-year-old Denise’s son told Radar of the family crisis, “We’re not sure when she’s going to be able to leave the hospital as she’s not able to care for herself. She can’t walk. She can’t talk.”
News broke today that Denise, who was 13 years old when she played gum-chewing Violet in the colorful film starring Gene Wilder, is in critical condition after suffering a stroke, according to her family.
Now Josh, her only son, has updated Radar on her status, saying, “She’s able to do some light movement but still, her right side is immobile. We’re taking this extremely hard and want her to get better but right now, it’s hard. Her stroke was really massive.”
He told how on Tuesday, June 19, his mom “called me and told me to come help her because she’d fallen down. She was in her room on the opposite side of the apartment. I rushed over to get her and when I did I brought her to the hospital and doctors told us she had ventricular tachycardia. On Saturday June 23 at 9 am, she was hospitalized again and the next day doctors said it was a stoke.
“She has been sick for a couple weeks with pneumonia and was on antibiotics. The antibiotics caused her to have irregular heartbeats. She had a lot of health problems. She was on several medications and that combination just shut down her body. She had heart rate spikes of dangerous levels. We’re confident she’s going to leave but the hospital doesn’t want to rush anything because she’s had so many different episodes,” Josh said.
“We’ve been in the hospital with her for three weeks. No one knows when she’s going to go home. She’s got a permanent feeding tube because she can’t swallow. Doctors are saying if she makes it out of this she’ll be discharged to a rehabilitation center.”
In addition to Willy Wonka, Denise also acted on the TV show Dark Shadows and appeared in Brady Bunch episodes, but basically quit acting at age 21. She later worked as a financial analyst for an aerospace company and raised her son, Josh, from her second marriage.
Denise’s daughter-in-law Jasmine Nickerson also told Radar, “We all share an apartment in Colorado. She pays her portion of the rent and her bills and now that she’s in the hospital, we’re having financial troubles. Once she gets out of the hospital and eventually gets home, I’ll have to quit my job. She’ll need around-the-clock care and I’ll be the one to do that.”
Jasmine added, “Everyone from from Willy Wonka reached out, including Julie Dawn Cole who played Varuka Saltlz one of the Oompa-Loomp Rusty Goffe. We’re like family. We talk everyday and are seriously one big family. They’re relaying the information back to other cast members and keeping hope alive that mom pulls through this. They’re staying strong for mom and wishing her the best.”
Denise is best known for the Willy Wonka flick, and the high-spirited actress told Celebrity Parents magazine in 2011, ”
When people first meet me and find out I played Violet, there are two reactions. The first reaction is that they break out in a big smile. Or, they say, ‘No way!’ And I’m like, ‘Truly? I have a far bigger imagination than to be a fruit in a kids’ movie!’ ”
Denise also humorously recalled that the blueberry suit “was beyond uncomfortable….I was in a rubber suit and I had a hose up my derriere, and they pumped me up.
“So that I wouldn’t fall over, they put a huge cinder block at my feet, so all day long I’m standing on that. They assigned some man to roll me every five minutes from one side to the other, and that’s how I spent my lunch time,” Denise said of the complicated shoot.
She loved working with funnyman Wilder, who famously played the iconic role of Willy Wonka. He died in 2016 at age 83.
Denise’s family has asked for donations to aid in medical expenses.
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