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10 Uplifting Stories To Get You Through The Week (5/12/19)

by Radu Alexander
fact checked by Jamie Frater

To help you end the week on a positive note, we have gathered all the news that might lift your spirits into one list. If you’d like a side dish of weird and wacky as well, check out the offbeat list.

This week, we have not one but two inspiring stories about women who were able to fulfill their graduation dreams even if they happened a few decades late. A young girl and a pooch saved their best friends from peril. There is also a look at a burial chamber that made English archaeologists giddy with excitement and a pioneering medical technique using genetically modified viruses that saved the life of a teenager.

10 Graduation Day

Elizabeth Barker Johnson’s 99th Birthday Surprise

A World War II veteran saw her wish come true as she was able to step on stage for her commencement ceremony seven decades after graduation.

Back in 1943, Elizabeth Barker Johnson from Elkin, North Carolina, enlisted in the US Army. She became part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only US battalion of black women that served overseas during World War II. Afterward, she enrolled at Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) on the GI Bill.

Johnson graduated in 1949 and began teaching. However, she missed her commencement because she had to work on her graduation day and couldn’t find a substitute.

Fast-forward almost seven decades to Johnson’s 99th birthday. She received a red cap and gown along with an invitation to participate in the commencement for the WSSU Class of 2019. It took place on Friday, and the veteran was finally able to fulfill a lifelong dream.[1]

9 Shine On You Crazy Diamond

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Music lovers are gearing up for the sale of the century as Pink Floyd member David Gilmour will be auctioning off his famed guitar collection for charity.

On June 20, Christie’s in Manhattan will sell over 120 guitars belonging to the prog rocker and they are expected to fetch millions of dollars. The money will go to Gilmour’s charity to help starving refugees.[2]

Many iconic instruments will go up for sale. They include a Stratocaster with the serial number 0001 and a 12-string Martin acoustic guitar that the musician used on “Wish You Were Here.”

However, the undisputed highlight of the auction will be Gilmour’s famous 1969 Stratocaster simply known as the Black Strat. It was his main guitar from 1970 until the mid-1980s and is featured on some of Pink Floyd’s greatest hits, such as “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and “Comfortably Numb.”

Although Gilmour admits that it will be tough to let some of these guitars go, helping his charity is more important to him these days. He hopes that the instruments will find new homes with musicians who will continue to play them and make new music rather than sticking them behind glass or on walls.

8 What Nurses Wear

Photo credit: The Guardian

Guinness World Records (GWR) decided to recognize the marathon record of a nurse after admitting that their initial criteria for her uniform were outdated.

The London Marathon took place two weekends ago. Plenty of runners competed—most of them for charity—while wearing various costumes and uniforms.

One competitor was Jessica Anderson, a nurse who works at Royal London Hospital. She set a new world record for fastest marathon time wearing a nurse’s uniform and raised over £5,000 for Barts Health NHS Trust. However, GWR declared her attempt void because Anderson was wearing the wrong clothes.

According to their guidelines, a nurse’s uniform had to include a white or blue dress, a white pinafore apron, and a traditional nurse’s cap. Anderson ran the race in scrubs which GWR considered too close to their requirements for a doctor’s costume.[3]

This decision did not sit well with nurses. They took to social media to show their support for Anderson by posing in their uniforms which mostly consisted of scrubs, occasional T-shirts, and some military fatigues. Very few nurses still wear dresses, particularly the male ones.

This week, a spokesperson for GWR announced that the company had reinstated Anderson’s world record, will drop the stereotypical uniform requirements, and will adopt new guidelines to accurately portray what modern nurses wear around the world.

7 A Serendipitous Chain Of Events

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One day, a third grader learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver at school. The very next day, she used it to save her best friend’s life.

On May 1, nine-year-old Shailyn Ryan was having lunch with her friend Keira Silvia at the Marguerite Peaslee Elementary School in Northborough, Massachusetts. Suddenly, Keira’s face turned red as she started choking on a hot dog.

Fortunately for Keira, Shailyn was ready to jump into action. She grabbed Keira from behind and squeezed just like she had been trained in the Home Alone Safety Program. She had learned how to perform the Heimlich maneuver at the Northborough Recreation Center just the day before and now she might have saved her friend’s life with it.[4]

6 Edgar The Hero Hound

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Edgar, the four-year-old coonhound, is being hailed as the hero of his neighborhood in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, after foiling an attempted kidnapping.

One night, the dog’s owners, Thom and Melissa Lambert, were awakened by Edgar’s frantic barking. Then they heard noises coming from the kitchen. The neighborhood was on high alert because a four-year-old girl had been kidnapped from the area just two days earlier.

Thom went to check on his three young daughters and found them fast asleep. He rounded up everyone in the master bedroom, armed himself with a butcher knife, and began to sweep the house. He found the kitchen window and front door wide open.

But there was no sign of the intruder who undoubtedly had been scared off by the dog’s determined howling. When the police arrived, Edgar was passed out on the bed and didn’t move a muscle for the rest of the night.[5]

Two days later, police arrested 20-year-old Thomas Dewald. The previously kidnapped girl had already escaped while Dewald was at work. Later that day, she was found while wandering along the street.

Since all this happened, Edgar has been spoiled rotten by all the neighbors who keep bringing him steaks and treats.

5 The Tomb Of The King Of Bling

Photo credit: BBC

Archaeologists have published the findings from a rich and intact burial chamber which has been acclaimed as the “UK’s answer to Tutankhamen’s tomb.”

Back in 2003, roadworks uncovered a burial site in Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. At first glance, it didn’t look like anything much. However, when a team from the Museum of London Archaeology excavated the site, their jaws dropped.[6]

The burial chamber was untouched and, judging by all the artifacts, clearly belonged to royalty. Its unknown occupant has since become known as the Prince of Prittlewell and the King of Bling. Over 40 experts from different fields examined the site, and now they have published their findings ahead of the artifacts going on display at Southend Central Museum.

Although the tomb drew many comparisons to that of Tutankhamen, a key difference was that this one was located in free-draining soil. As a result, everything that was organic had decayed. In fact, the only human remains still present were fragments of tooth enamel.

Even so, the chamber still housed over 40 rare artifacts. They included a lyre, gold-foil crosses, a golden belt buckle, a copper alloy bowl, decorative glass beakers, and a flagon. A 1,400-year-old box is thought to be the only surviving example of painted Anglo-Saxon woodwork in Britain.

As for the occupant’s identity, scholars once believed that it could have been Saebert, king of Essex. However, carbon dating revealed that the tomb was constructed a few decades before his death. They now think it could be Seaxa, the king’s brother, although they caution that this is just their “best guess.”

4 Recognition For A Trailblazer

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Last Friday, the University of Alabama bestowed an honorary doctorate on Autherine Lucy Foster, its first black student, who experienced protests, riots, and death threats when she initially enrolled almost seven decades ago.

As she took the stage during the commencement exercise, Foster couldn’t help but notice the stark difference. It was the same kind of crowd, except this time she saw “laughing faces instead of people frowning and displeased at [her] being here.”[7]

Indeed, when she first enrolled at the university, people were a bit more than displeased. She initially applied in 1952 but was rejected. Foster was finally accepted in 1956, becoming the first black person to attend a school or university for white people in Alabama. Her enrollment lasted just three days. She was expelled because her presence brought mobs of protesters.

Foster eventually returned in 1988 and graduated alongside her daughter. She obtained a master’s degree in elementary education. Now, the University of Alabama has presented her with a doctorate to “honor its first civil rights trailblazer.”

3 Trinity The Tattooed Toddler

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Seeing a three-year-old with tattoo sleeves would be an unusual and somewhat distressing sight. In this case, however, it was all done to help cheer up a young girl fighting cancer.

Skyla Zimmerman D’Autorio sent an unusual request to Ink Wolves, a tattoo parlor in Tampa, Florida. She wanted to know if it was possible to get her daughter, Trinity, temporary Disney-themed sleeves. Trinity has neuroblastoma, so her parents look for fun activities to get her mind off the illness. She loves her father’s sleeves, so they figured she would enjoy her own.[8]

D’Autorio was concerned that the tattoo shop would think she was crazy, but they were immediately on board. Two of the artists even came in on their day off to be a part of it. They worked on Trinity for four hours and left her covered in Disney princesses, butterflies, and anything else she could think of.

The tattoos only lasted for about six days, but D’Autorio also brought a professional photographer to ensure that the memories will last forever.

2 Pay It Forward

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One small gesture went viral online and triggered a chain reaction of random acts of kindness.

While shopping at Target in Columbia, Missouri, 27-year-old college administrator Ashley Jost bought a self-help book titled Girl, Stop Apologizing. She went home and began reading it. At one point, her dog started barking at something and running around the house. Jost tossed the book aside to chase the pooch and noticed that a $5 bill fell out of the pages.

There was also a note from someone named “Lisa.” She had put the money there when she had a tough day as a little kindness to another person who might need it.[9]

The gesture did its job. Jost was so touched that she took a picture of the note and posted it online. As it turned out, many other people enjoyed it and felt inspired to commit their own random acts of kindness.

Some were small. For example, Jost’s stepfather paid for the groceries of the person in line behind him at the supermarket. Others had greater meaning. One woman did it in honor of her daughter who had died in a car accident.

Even the author of the book, Rachel Hollis, heard about the initiative and encouraged her followers to pay it forward. Eventually, Jost was contacted by the mysterious “Lisa” who sent her a card saying that what Jost had accomplished “made [Lisa] cry in a good way.”

1 Phage Therapy Leads To Remarkable Recovery

Photo credit: The Guardian

A teenager has made a recovery from a life-threatening condition thanks to the world’s first treatment of a drug-resistant infection using a genetically modified virus.

Isabelle Holdaway from Kent, England, has cystic fibrosis. This causes frequent infections in her lungs. Eventually, the best option became a double lung transplant. After the operation, the 17-year-old girl again was infected with a bacterial strain resistant to antibiotics. The infection spread to other parts of the body, and Isabelle went home for palliative care as she was given a 1 percent chance of survival.

Isabelle’s mother asked her doctors to try phage therapy. A phage is a virus that infects bacteria cells and kills them. The doctors reached out to experts at the University of Pittsburgh to develop a treatment that would counter Isabelle’s infection.

Phages are efficient but highly specialized. Each one targets certain bacteria, so it took a lot of trial and error to find the right ones. In the end, researchers found three of them which had potential. They removed a gene in each of two viruses to increase their potency and then created a cocktail of all three to avoid the chance that the bacteria would develop a resistance.

Isabelle began phage therapy in June 2018. Six weeks later, the infection had almost disappeared with minimal side effects.[10]

As the teenager was not part of a clinical trial, it is hard to say how efficient the treatment would be for other patients. However, seeing as how antibiotics are becoming less effective against infections, phage therapy could be a viable alternative.


Read more uplifting stories you might have missed from May 5, 2019, and April 28, 2019.

fact checked by Jamie Frater