Cromer football star’s daughter Ella-Grace can enjoy Christmas

As Ella-Grace Honeyman enjoys a Christmas without the stress of another imminent surgery, she's looking forward to 2011 when her family is set to welcome a new member.

Twelve months ago, the Honeyman family were coping with the aftermath of an epic nine-hour operation, which was hastily arranged when their poorly daughter's health suddenly deteriorated.

This year, they are set to enjoy Christmas without the stress of imminent surgery and the pressure of urgent fundraising, knowing they have eight months until Ella-Grace's next treatment. And, as the three-year-old plays under the Christmas tree, she will be looking forward to welcoming a little brother or sister to the family in 2011.

Laura and Ryan Honeyman had always hoped to have a big family but, when Ella-Grace was diagnosed with vein of Galen malformation just before her first birthday, had to put their plans on hold.

The 31-year-old mother said: 'Ella-Grace getting treatment has always been a priority, but Niamh will be seven next year and Ella-Grace will be four. The doctors said we had a year before her next operation and neither of us wanted a big gap.'

Mrs Honeyman is booked in for a caesarean section on May 23, more than two months before her daughter's next surgery, which is set to happen in August.

The mother said: 'Niamh, being a bit older, she understands a lot more. A lot of it goes over Ella-Grace's head, but when I came back from the hospital, she asked 'your baby ok?' They're excited about it.'

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The new addition is a sign that life for the Honeymans has settled down a little since July when Ella-Grace had her last operation.

She has remained largely happy and healthy since then, although two months ago was taken off blood-thinning drugs after doctors discovered a tear in her gut.

With another eight months until the next surgery – which will aim to seal the remaining leaking blood vessels in her brain – the family are looking forward to a Christmas without the stress of the past couple of years.

In December 2009, Ella-Grace was rushed to America for a hastily planned operation after her health deteriorated.

Mrs Honeyman, who lives in Hevingham with husband Ryan, 32, who plays for Cromer Town FC, said: 'This time last year we almost lost her. It was a period of our lives that was horrendous. Next year will hopefully be a good year.'

Mrs Honeyman said she was enjoying watching her younger daughter get excited about the holiday. She said: 'It's the first Christmas where she really understands what's happening. She keeps telling us we have got to leave carrots and a mince pie and milk for Santa and the reindeer. And an orange. The list keeps getting longer.'

Ella-Grace went to see Father Christmas at Thursford last week and will spend Christmas Day with her parents, sister and grandparents.

Mrs Honeyman added: 'It's a magical time. It's a family time and it's nice not to have the pressure and be able to enjoy the day.'

To give to the Ella Grace fund, contact Steve Read on 07949 871013 or 01603 722294, or visit Cheques payable to The Ella-Grace Fund can be sent to Mr Read at 77 Salhouse Road, Rackheath, Norwich, NR13 6PD.