HEART transplant girl Sally Slater has spoken her first word since her heart transplant operation.

Six-year-old Sally, from Kirkby Malham, asked doctors for orange juice shortly after being taken off a ventilator at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Sally had to undergo a transplant after catching a mystery virus which attacked her heart. A hospital spokesman said yesterday (Wednesday) that she was making progress.

Her father, Jon, said: "It's encouraging, but we know the heart can still be rejected and there's other things that can complicate it.

"But generally the doctors say she is in as good a condition as they would have wanted at this time."

She is still heavily sedated in intensive care, but has managed to watch a video of one of her favourite films, Mary Poppins.

Mr Slater, a self-employed financial advisor, said: "The doctors are hopeful that if things go as well as they hope she won't need to go on the ventilator again.

"It might be hard work for her lungs, but hopefully that won't be the case.

"She has been sitting up in a chair for a little time and watched a bit of her Mary Poppins video. She has a glazed expression on her face because she is still on a lot of morphine.

"She knows where she is because we asked her if she remembered being ill when she was in Leeds and she said yes. We asked her if she remembered the journey to Newcastle but she didn't. We asked her if she remembered that she needed a new heart and she said yes. We told her that she had one."

Although the signs of Sally's recovery are good, Mr Slater is at pains to stress that she still has a long way to go.

"We are probably about two steps up a 30 step ladder. She will be in intensive care for some time yet and then she will move onto a ward. After that she will move into a hospital flat."

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