She's spent much of her childhood in these very halls at Arkansas Children's Hospital. At four years old, she was diagnosed with E. coli, leading to diabetes, that severely damaged her kidneys.
"I had to come every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for dialysis," she said of her experience. "The dialysis took four hours."
By the time she was seven, her kidney had nearly given out. In October 2010, without a transplant, her mother was told she had a seven percent chance of living.
"Did that make you sad?" I asked her, as big brown eyes stared back at me.
"No, I just thought of good things that I could think of," she said.
The best thing she could think of was the new kidney she desperately needed. And the news of a transplant finally came into the picture.
"It means the world to me, cause I can be a normal kid now like normal kids can," she said. "Before I couldn't go to birthday parties because the kids always ate chocolate cake and ice cream. Or they were swimming parties."
"You couldn't swim?" I asked her, confused.
"No. I had ports in me that couldn't get wet," she said, clarifying for what could very well be the hundredth time.
The life-saving miracle her family had been hoping for, though, required Russell Bourland's 19-year-old son Josh to die in the process.
"To me instead of him tragically dying and being the end of it there's a part of him still living," Russell said. "He always wanted to help people. Even when he was a kid, we'd be driving down the road, and he would see someone broken down on the shoulder. He'd ask if we could stop and help them out. That never changed."
While driving his motorcycle home to visit his parents, Josh swerved to miss a dog in the road. He crashed into a barbed wire fence. He suffered traumatic head injuries.
"As we sat there and decided to turn off the machines, the doctors came in and told us they weren't trying to be mean or calloused," he said. "But they told me there was a little girl in very critical condition who needed a kidney. They wanted to know if we would donate."
It's a conversation Russell had with his son nearly a decade before, when Josh was about the age Whittney is now.
"When he was around 10 or 11, he actually told me that if he died he wanted to be an organ donor. When you're a parent and your child tells you that it throws you off. But I told him I would honor his wishes. And I told him that if I went first, I'd like him to honor mine."
Russell asked where to sign, and his son's kidney arrived in time to save Whittney's life.
"To me, instead of him dying tragically and that being the end, there's a part of him still living," Russell said.
"What do you think when you think about him?" I gently prodded Whittney.
"That he's an angel to me, and he's in heaven right now, and he's watching over me," she said as tears welled up.
Few donor families are able to meet the people whose lives they've saved. Far fewer grow close enough for hospital visits and hugs.
"The ultimate dream for me was to get to meet at least one person who had received an organ from him," Russell said, sitting in a chair in Whittney's hospital room. "With Whittney it's so special. There are days where I don't want to get out of bed, and then I'll think of her. Or my phone will ring and she's called me before she heads off to school. It helps with the pain, it fills the hole in my heart."
For Whittney and Russell, the past two years have given them a second chance -- through a stranger.
They met last year -- and haven't looked back.
It's more than a new organ for her. She's more than a little girl to him.
"Since Mr. Russell came now he's real family ," Whittney said.
Together, they're a living, breathing picture of life after death.
"I don't regret it," he said. "Not one bit. And I would tell anyone to sign up and make the decision to donate. Who knows when it might be your child lying in that bed needing a donation?"
For people who may not be donors or are scared of the thought of making that decision for a family member, Whittney's words are ones meant to reassure.
"I would tell them that they could save a lot of lives and so that kids & people can live more longer like me," the little girl, too old for her years, said with a smile.
ORGAN DONATION FACTS
- Currently there are more than 110,000 people waiting for organs in the U.S.
- Every 14 minutes another person is added to the national waiting list for organs.
- One third of the people waiting for organs will die before they receive a transplant.
- 25,000 people die of a brain death annually (and could donate organs); 5,500 donate.
Click the following links for information on how to donate and answers to frequently asked questions.