The parents of six-year-old heart swap girl Sally Slater have written to the donor's family to thank them for saving their daughter's life.

And the youngster's father said they have been overwhelmed by the public's response to Sally's plight and hope her story will encourage others to consider organ donation.

Sally is recovering in Newcastle's Freeman Hospital after having a heart transplant three weeks ago following a last-minute appeal through the press for a donor.

The six-year-old became critically ill in March after a virus attacked muscles in her heart, leaving a transplant as her only chance of survival.

Her parents - Jon and Bridget, 36, a lecturer at Skipton's Craven College - have been keeping a bedside vigil since the life-saving seven-hour operation and are now hoping their daughter will be able to return home to Kirby Malham, near Skipton, over the next couple of months.

Mr Slater, 36, a Grassington-based self-employed independent financial advisor, told the Telegraph & Argus: "We've written a personal letter to the donor's family, which has been passed on by the hospital, thanking them for what they did at such a traumatic time for them.

"If it would help them we'd be happy to meet them and they are welcome to come and see Sally.

"What they did saved her life and we're extremely grateful - I'd hope we'd do the same in a similar situation and hopefully more people nationwide will now do a similar thing in the future.''

Mr Slater said they had received about 2,000 cards and presents, including numerous cuddly toys and several Easter eggs, sent by well-wishers from all over the country and had even got some from as far away as Australia and Canada.

He said: "There have also been a lot of donations made to the Children's Heart Unit Fund at Newcastle and the Heart Surgery Fund at Leeds General Infirmary, where Sally spent ten days in the intensive care unit before being transferred.

"The response has been overwhelming. It's difficult to appreciate why it's such a big thing but very humbling to know there are so many people out there who care for someone they've never met before.''

Commenting on Sally's progress, Mr Slater added: "Things are going in the right direction, slowly. There's a slight improvement everyday but there's still a long way to go and she's still very poorly."

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