Ellie Inglis’ dream came true courtesy of charity Make-A-Wish UK and backed this year by the Mirror’s Christmas Appeal which has raised £13,281 so far
Image: Phil Harris)
Sitting in the car as her mum drove slowly along her street, Ellie Inglis strained her neck to see what was going on outside her house.
There were vans in the way and her mum was acting strangely, telling her to look this way and that at ordinary things outside the window.
But when the pair pulled up outside their home, Ellie realised what was happening – her childhood dream of turning her house into a winter wonderland in time for Christmas had finally come true.
“When I noticed our house was lit up I realised what people mean when they say they’re lost for words,” says 17-year-old Ellie.
“It was absolutely magical,” adds mum Maria Georgiou, 44.
“It’s made such an incredible difference to us and we’ve all still got huge smiles on our faces. We’ll never forget it.”
Ellie’s dream came true courtesy of the charity Make-A-Wish UK, backed this year by the Mirror’s Christmas Appeal, which has raised £13,281 so far thanks to our generous readers.
To receive a wish, a child must live in the UK and have a critical illness.
Ellie, of Catford, South East London, has dreamed about her wish since she was a little girl, and sharing it with mum Maria, dad Bradley Inglis, 46, brother James, 15, and gran Evangelia, 77, was the icing on the cake.
Maria recalls: ‘I used to take Ellie and James out in the car when they were little to look at all the houses that were completely decked out for Christmas.
“We always said we’d do it at our house – and how it’s worked out this year has been more beautiful than we’d ever dreamed of.”
Ellie was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in May 2019 when she was just 15. Already at stage four and with cancer in a number of parts of her body, treatment began straight away with a course of chemotherapy.
“It felt like it came out of the blue,” recalls charity worker Maria. “Ellie had had a persistent cough and then she got itchy skin. A day later she found a lump in her armpit. Her diagnosis came as a shock, but at the beginning we thought she would have chemo for three months and it would be fine.”
Sadly that wasn’t the case. Another course of chemotherapy began in 2020, with Ellie spending a week at a time over a few months in hospital.
“Things didn’t go well,” says Maria. “So we tried immunotherapy. When that didn’t work, she had radiotherapy to target a stubborn area in her chest.”
When radiotherapy failed to make an impact, the next step was a stem cell transplant with a three-month stay in hospital from October 2020.
“For that period, Ellie was in isolation,” Maria says. “Myself and her dad were allowed in and out, but Ellie had to stay in the room, but they somehow made it a nice environment.
“The treatment was very difficult with unpleasant side-effects, but she’s the most incredible girl.”
In January 2021 Ellie had a scan – the spot on her chest remained. “They told us she could have top-up cells from her donor to try to get her immune system to kick in by itself, as well as more chemo, but it didn’t help,” says Maria.
“At the end of September, we’d the first indication things weren’t going well and a scan two weeks ago confirmed it. We’re at the stage where Ellie is getting no new treatment. We’re just working to keep her symptoms under control.”
Maria says Ellie remains “the most positive child you can imagine”. “She’s so determined,” she says. “Despite everything she’s gone through she applied to go to college in September and with a robot gifted to her by a charity, she can attend remotely.
“She controls it from her tablet and it lets her talk to the teacher and her classmates.
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“She can follow lessons, and go for lunch with her friends so they can chat through the robot. Despite everything she’s been through she’s persevered, as well as raising money for kids with cancer. Her strength has been incredible and it’s kept all of us going. She tells us, ‘I’m not scared’ and she keeps on going, day by day.”
Ellie’s Make-A-Wish experience has given the whole family an extra lift they will treasure for ever, Maria adds.
“I dropped her at her dad’s house so the organisers could get everything done to perfection. When we pulled up at the house, the joy and surprise on her face was amazing. We had a beautiful time. People came from all around. Ellie was bowled over.
By Jason Beattie
For the majority of families this Christmas will be a joyous time of presents, food and fun.
But for some children the festive season will be very different.
Across the country there are more than 63,000 young people who are critically ill.
Many will be spending what should be a special time of the year in hospital.
Others will have to have treatment, scans or blood tests.
With your help we can give them a Christmas that they will always remember.
This year’s Mirror Christmas Appeal is raising funds for Make-A-Wish UK that helps seriously ill young people make their dreams come true.
It could be they want to meet their hero or heroine or feed an animal at the zoo or travel to see Santa in Lapland.
The money raised could help Joshua, six, who has severe epilepsy, achieve his wish of a bedroom makeover or Summer, also six, who has acute leukaemia and dreams of a bouncy castle.
Each year Make-A-Wish helps hundreds of critically ill children achieve their lifetime’s ambition.
But to make a wish come true takes an army of volunteers, supporters and donors.
That’s why every penny you donate could make a difference.
Granting a wish can transform a child’s life. It gives them something to look forward to.
For others it provides a special memory which makes the treatment they need more bearable.
It can also help their parents who, despite doing everything they can for their sick child, feel it is not enough.
Jason Suckley, Make-A-Wish UK chief executive, said: “I met the family of a boy who was recovering from brain surgery.
“His grandmother told me how difficult it had been for her to watch her daughter struggle with the challenges of her son’s condition.
“But while they were enjoying his wish together, her daughter turned to her and said, ‘There is still magic in this world isn’t there mum?’ .
“That’s just one instance that illustrates how the power of a wish lies in sharing positive memories with loved ones.
“Every donation from Mirror readers will help us create those memories – bringing joy to ill children and their families during the darkest of times.”
“It was a dream come true after those days as a girl when we drove around looking at the most spectacular Christmas lights we could find.”
The charity’s Wish Tree, which was temporarily put up outside her house raised nearly £500, and the family are looking forward to the festive season.
“Ellie is such a special girl, I’m so glad her wish has been granted,” Maria says.
“It’s a dream come true,” Ellie adds. “I want to say a big thank you to Make-A-Wish and everyone involved.”