After her surgery, a hospital sent this girl on a VR adventure to cheer her up.

8-year-old Abrielle woke up one night with debilitating nausea.

The next morning, she was in so much pain that she couldn't stand. Her mom, Renata, rushed her to the hospital, where doctors said Abbie's appendix was "leaking." She'd have to have surgery right away.

But this was no routine appendectomy.


"It was pretty bad," Renata said. "In fact the surgeoneven told us in the 20 years he's been doing it, she fell in the 10%of the worst cases. There was a point where her heart ratejumped up to 200 beats per minute and her oxygen level dropped below40%. It was pretty scary."

Abbie's difficult recovery kept her and her mom in the hospital for an agonizing 12 days.

Abrielle poses with her mom. Photos by Renata Linn used with permission.

How do you keep an 8-year-old girl distracted and entertained in a hospital room for 12 days, you might ask? It wasn't easy.

"We played Monopoly," Renata said with a laugh. "And Uno. We played a lot of Uno."

She also said Abbie looked forward to watching "Spongebob" on the TV in her room every morning.

But, after a while, even all the TV and games in the world aren't enough to overcome the boredom, the physical discomfort, the IVs sticking out of arms.

It's a lot for anyone to handle, especially a kid.

That's where VRKids comes in. They're a nonprofit that brings interactive virtual reality games to kids who need a pick-me-up, free of charge.

Abrielle gears up for a virtual adventure.

Renata said a hospital worker told them about the program, and she immediately knew Abbie would love it.

So later that day, a team set up a computer and an Oculus Rift headset in Abbie's room to take her on incredible, magical, and immersive adventures. After days and days of being confined to her bed, unable to do even the simplest tasks for herself and fighting complications from her surgery, Abbie was suddenly soaring through the clouds on a magic carpet.

"She said it was like being in 'Aladdin,'" Renata said. "It definitely made the day different than the other days. She got to do something. It lifted her spirits."

"After the whole experience was done, she kept asking when she was going to get to do it again."

It may seem like a simple thing, but some studies have shown that a positive state of mind can be much better for physical recovery.

In one adventure, Abbie took a ride on a magic carpet.

We're really just starting to figure out how to get the most out of VR technology: So far it's showing up in everything from gaming to tourism to education and more. But helping hospital patients on the tough road to recovery has to be one of the best uses yet.

Unfortunately, VR therapy isn't a fit for everyone. It takes a certain amount of energy and alertness to engage with the program.

But for kids like Abbie, things like this can make a huge difference.

"For these kids to be able to escape that reality [of the hospital] for even just 10 minutes,and they're in charge of what they're doing," Renata said. "They put that headpieceon, and they can look any direction they want, and they're in adifferent world, and they can feel the movement and the senses andthat kind of thing."

"It was a really moving experience."

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Eight months into the coronavirus pandemic, many of us are feeling the weight of it growing heavier and heavier. We miss normal life. We miss our friends. We miss travel. We miss not having to mentally measure six feet everywhere we go.

Maybe that's what was on Edmund O'Leary's mind when he tweeted on Friday. Or maybe he had some personal issues or challenges he was dealing with. After all, it's not like people didn't struggle pre-COVID. Now, we just have the added stress of a pandemic on top of our normal mental and emotional upheavals.

Whatever it was, Edmund decided to reach out to Twitter and share what he was feeling.

"I am not ok," he wrote. "Feeling rock bottom. Please take a few seconds to say hello if you see this tweet. Thank you."

O'Leary didn't have a huge Twitter following, but somehow his tweet started getting around quickly. Response after response started flowing in from all over the world, even from some famous folks. Thousands of people seemed to resonate with Edmund's sweet and honest call for help and rallied to send him support and good cheer.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

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When it comes to the topic of race, we all have questions. And sometimes, it honestly can be embarrassing to ask perfectly well-intentioned questions lest someone accuse you of being ignorant, or worse, racist, for simply admitting you don't know the answer.

America has a complicated history with race. For as long as we've been a country, our culture, politics and commerce have been structured in a way to deny our nation's past crimes, minimize the structural and systemic racism that still exists and make the entire discussion one that most people would rather simply not have.

For example, have you ever wondered what's really behind the term Black Pride? Is it an uplifting phrase for the Black community or a divisive term? Most people instinctively put the term "White Pride" in a negative context. Is there such a thing as non-racist, racial pride for white people? And while we're at it, what about Asian people, Native Americans, and so on?

Yes, a lot of people raise these questions with bad intent. But if you've ever genuinely wanted an answer, either for yourself or so that you best know how to handle the question when talking to someone with racist views, writer/director Michael McWhorter put together a short, simple and irrefutable video clip explaining why "White Pride" isn't a real thing, why "Black Pride" is and all the little details in between.


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