Sally Slater, the six-year-old girl who was given a last- minute heart transplant on Sunday, squeezed her mother's hand yesterday, the first sign of life she has shown since the operation.
Bridget Slater, who has been sitting by her daughter's bedside ever since the operation, said it was only a small movement that lasted a split second, but that it filled her with hope.
She and her husband, Jon, have been reading the little girl's favourite Roald Dahl stories to her and holding her hand as she lies in the intensive care unit at the Freeman Hospital, in Newcastle.
Mr Slater, 36, said yesterday: "We are trying very hard not to become over-optimistic because there is still a long way to go. But there was a lovely moment when Sally gave her mother's hand a squeeze.
"Bridget jumped and said: 'She squeezed my hand, she squeezed my hand.' It must have been a nice feeling."
But he said there was still a long way to go before Sally, who is said to be "poorly but improving", was fully recovered.
Sally was struck down by a virus that attacked her heart three weeks ago and doctors had warned she had only hours left to live if a donor was not found. Her parents made a nationwide appeal for a new heart and she was given a transplant early on Sunday morning.