A "LITTLE fighter" who has endured the toughest year of her short life enjoyed a dream Christmas trip to Lapland.
Tia-Grace Ray, 11, from Carshalton, had her festive wishes granted – after a year in which she has been in and out of hospital, battling a debilitating disorder.
She suffers from neuromyelitis optica, a disorder where the immune system attacks the optic nerves and spinal cord, sometimes leading to blindness and muscle weakness.
For much of this year Tia-Grace has been in a wheelchair and, though she is recovering well, she is still being fed through a tube.
She also suffers from extreme exhaustion, which means she cannot attend a regular school.
Children's charity Starlight arranged for Tia-Grace, along with her mum Sandra and dad Richard, to travel to Luosto, a traditional Finnish resort that offers a magical Lapland experience.
The family travelled with a group of families who all have children with serious illnesses.
Sandra, of Arcadia Close, told the Advertiser: "It was absolutely amazing. I would just describe it as totally magical."
She added: "This trip to Lapland has meant the world to Tia-Grace. Without a doubt it has allowed her to remember the magic of Christmas."
During their trip, the family went on a sleigh ride through the forests pulled by a team of huskies, met some reindeer, and, of course, Santa and his elves.
Paying tribute to her daughter's bravery, Sandra added: "She is a little superstar – this time last year she couldn't even hold her own head up.
"It was a shock. One day you go out shopping with your little girl and she says 'I don't feel well', the next ...
"Her normality of life has been taken away but she's a little fighter, that's for sure."
For now the family is looking forward to a happy Christmas with Tia-Grace, outside of hospital.
"We're hoping to have a family Christmas at home this year. That's all we want from Santa," Sandra added.