Whittney Edwards of Van Buren packs a lot of personality into her small frame. A very “girly” girl, it would be impossible to look at her and know the physical challenges she has experienced in her young life. At age 4, Whittney was diagnosed with an aggressive E. coli bacteria infection. Yoli Edwards, Whittney’s mother, said that her daughter was given only a seven percent chance of recovery, and that she likely would not survive beyond 24 hours. Whittney did recover. Unfortunately, the illness had ravaged her kidneys causing them to fail.
Whittney spent more than half her nine years of life at Arkansas Children’s Hospital receiving dialysis treatments three times each week. All of that changed when she received a kidney transplant from her donor, Joshua Bourland. Josh, only 19 years old, succumbed to injuries he received as a result of a motorcycle accident.
Whittney, who received Josh’s left kidney, said that Josh is her hero. “He’s an angel to me, and he’s in heaven right now and he’s watching over me.” Joshua’s parents are Russell Bourland of Atkins and Tammy Johnson of Dardanelle. Russell has a special bond with Whittney. He said that Josh told him at age 10 that he wanted to become an organ donor. Russell assured Josh he would honor his wishes. “To be able to be close to Whittney and be friends with her…it eases the pain and helps to fill the hole in my heart,” Russell said. He added that sometimes Whittney gives him a phone call before going to school. When he hears her voice he said his “heart just jumps.” Whittney said she thinks of Russell as “real family.”
Whittney has named her kidney “Princess Chocolate Strawberry.” She said that Josh’s kidney donation means the world to her because “I can just be a normal kid now.” “Josh didn’t die so that Whittney could live,” Russell said. “He died, and because of that, she lives.”