'Darth Vader Girl' is the most heartwarming hospital story you'll see today.

A long 12 years ago, in a Los Angeles far, far away ... Noah Bella Michaelis was born with a congenital heart defect.

She was diagnosed with a combination of heterotaxy syndrome, dextrocardia, and a single-ventricle defect — meaning, among other things, that her heart formed on the opposite side of her body.

She's also a huge fan of "Star Wars," although the verdict's still out on whether that's a congenital condition or something that developed over time.


Noah with her parents, who are totally dressed as Han Solo and Princess Leia.

In her short life so far, Noah has already undergone four open-heart surgeries, and numerous lengthy hospital stays.

In "Star Wars" terms, that's kind of like battling your best friend on the lava planet of Mustafar, but with less dramatic posturing and more endless bouts of hospital-induced boredom interspersed with moments of fear and relief.

Noah passes her recovery time in the hospital with homework, marathons of Minecraft and Settlers of Catan, and working with her parents on her lemonade stand and backyard festival fundraisers that have helped to raise more than $60,000 so far for the Hopeful Hearts Foundation.

GIF from "Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith."

But after too much time spent in hospitals, even a resilient kid like Noah needs an extra-special pick-me-up.

Fortunately, there are organizations like the For the Win Project that offer fantastical surprises and superheroic opportunities for kids like Noah who are stuck in the children's ward for weeks or months at a time.

When a nurse asked Noah who her favorite superhero was — not-so-inconspicuously-inquiring because of an upcoming kind of special visit — Noah offered a rather unconventional answer: Darth Vader.

Yep. Noah's favorite superhero is ... this guy:

GIF from "Star Wars IV: A New Hope."

OK, so maybe the Jedi-turned-Dark-Lord-of-the-Sith isn't exactly the first role model that comes to mind.

For most of us, the iconic image of Darth Vader emerging from the smoke for his first on-screen appearance is, erm, well, not something we usually associate with "happy thoughts."

When you think about it, though, Noah's affinity for Vader makes a lot of sense.

"I always found Darth Vader to be such a strong character," Noah says. "I'm short for my age, and I liked that he was really tall and so it made me feel tall."

Granted, Noah probably doesn't relate to the immaculate-Force-conception or the Tusken Raider attacks or the terrible tinny dialogue about sand, but still.

Like Noah, Vader has lived through plenty of physical hardships. He endured immense physical pain and had to rely on technology to save his failing body, just like she has, and he still managed to become the second-most-powerful person in the galaxy.

And, oh yeah, let's not forget that time he redeemed himself by overthrowing the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. That was cool too.

"Being Darth Vader kind of helped me step away from being in the hospital," Noah says.

For The Win Project arranged a special "Star Wars"-themed celebration for Noah at her favorite restaurant , complete with stormtroopers and a "Darth Noah" photoshoot. They even surprised her with messages from some special celebrity guests, which made her smile brighter than the twin suns of Vader's home planet of Tatooine. Somehow. It's even more delightful than it sounds.

Sure, the photoshoot and celebrity messages aren't a cure. But for one day, Darth Noah got to revel in the stoic, black-caped confidence of her hero.

And sometimes that's all you need to keep going.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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