A 5th-grader made a discovery about stuffed animals and germs. It landed her in a medical journal.

Gaby Zane isn't your average fifth-grader, and there are a lot of doctors who would agree.

Why? It all started with a science project that was influenced by her favorite stuffed animal, Sheena.


Gaby with her stuffed cat, Sheena. Hi, Sheena. Image via 9News.

Gaby's parents are both doctors. So when it came time for her fifth-grade science project, she got to thinking about what happens when kids end up in the hospital.

How could she help those kids?

"Kids probably get stressed that they're going to have to go through an operation," Gaby told Kyle Dyer of 9News. "Stuffed animals really help with staying calm, but they can carry lots of bacteria into the operating room."

Comforting and cute animals full of icky germs? Cue the light-bulb moment!

Gaby came up with a way to make operating rooms more sterile, especially for kids.

She grabbed some stuffed animals in her own home and discovered just how many germs they had by rubbing sterile swabs on them and taking culture samples.

"They had a lot of bacteria," she told 9News.

Cute on the outside, and also filthy on the outside. Image via 9News.

So ... she washed them. And it turns out that if you wash and dry your stuffed animals, you can prevent germs from spreading.

"When we washed them, they had a 94 percent decrease in bacteria," said Gaby. "Put them in a sealed plastic bag before you get to the operating room to make sure they stay sterile, and you'll be OK."

A 94% decrease is huge!

If Gaby's solution sounds simple, that's because it is.

But for people with already weakened immune systems, think of how big of an impact her discovery could make.

Gaby's mom, Dr. Murphy-Zane, loved the idea. It was right in line with what her hospital had been trying to do, too: minimize surgical-site infections.

"The push is on to decrease the bacterial load for the operating room ... not just people scrubbing in or wearing booties on their feet," Dr. Murphy-Zane told 9News. "We're trying to minimize traffic coming in and out of the O.R. and minimize materials coming into the room."

But because of Gaby's research, kids can now bring their stuffed animals into the O.R., too, without bringing germs along with them and risking their health.

This is a solid example of how simple ideas can go far.

Gaby's idea just keeps growing.

According to Bustle, her science project can now be found in the paper "Stuffed Animals in the Operating Room: A Reservoir of Bacteria With a Simple Solution," which was recently published in the Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics. It's co-authored by Gaby, her mom, and some of her mom's colleagues. So cool.

Getting a scientific study published is no easy task. But Gaby, who is now 12, can mark it off her to-do list.

Now, excuse me while I go wash all of my things.

Bravo, Gaby! Bravo.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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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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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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With the election quickly approaching, the importance of voting and sending in your ballot on time is essential. But there is another way you can vote everyday - by being intentional with each dollar you spend. Support companies and products that uphold your values and help create a more sustainable world. An easy move is swapping out everyday items that are often thrown away after one use or improperly disposed of.

Package Free Shop has created products to help fight climate change one cotton swab at a time! Founded by Lauren Singer, otherwise known as, "the girl with the jar" (she initially went viral for fitting 8 years of all of the waste she's created in one mason jar). Package Free is an ecosystem of brands on a mission to make the world less trashy.

Here are eight of our favorite everyday swaps:

1. Friendsheep Dryer Balls - Replace traditional dryer sheets with these dryer balls that are made without chemicals and conserve energy. Not only do these also reduce dry time by 20% but they're so cute and come in an assortment of patterns!

Package Free Shop

2. Last Swab - Replacement for single use plastic cotton swabs. Nearly 25.5 billion single use swabs are produced and discarded every year in the U.S., but not this one. It lasts up to 1,000 uses as it's able to be cleaned with soap and water. It also comes in a biodegradable, corn based case so you can use it on the go!

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