When a 6-year-old girl got very sick, her 2-year-old sister made a huge sacrifice to save her.
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Vanessa Gissel is an 6-year-old with sickle cell anemia.

The thing about this disease is that when it requires treatment via bone marrow transplant, you need as close to a perfect match as possible or the recipient's body could reject it.

The perfect match for Vanessa? It turned out to be her 2-year-old sister, Sarah.


"That's the beauty of it," said her mom, Dominique. "One is going to complete the other."

Their father, Gregory, has been supportive, too.

Vanessa had always wanted to dye her hair blue, so he took her to the beauty salon so they could do that together. He also recognizes Sarah's huge sacrifice.

Just like the blue hair Gregory donned for his daughter, he also shaved his head so that Vanessa knew her whole family was supporting her.


The transplant wasn't easy.

Sarah being poked with needles.

Sarah cried during the procedure, but her sister faced a more challenging time ahead. After the operation, Vanessa spent 71 grueling days at the Aflac Cancer & Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, as well as the Atlanta Ronald McDonald House.

The results came back, first three months later then six months later.

Vanessa's tests came back with wonderful results, and she's been in remission ever since.

Children who develop cancer and other blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia can face difficult obstacles on the road to recovery. Even with proper treatment, it's hard for families to plan for the future until the outcome seems certain.

Vanessa's mother summed up how the future of her daughter and family has changed:

“She'll be able to get married, have kids, pick a profession. I feel like we can do anything now." — Dominique Gissel


Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Virginia is poised to become the 23rd U.S. state—and first state in the South—to ban the death penalty after lawmakers on Monday approved legislation prohibiting the practice.

"We're dismantling the remnants of Jim Crow here in the New South. Abolishing the death penalty is another step on that journey," tweeted Democratic Del. Jay Jones, who's running for state attorney general.

Both chambers of the General Assembly passed earlier versions already this month. On Monday, the Senate passed the House bill in a 22-16 vote; the House then voted 57-43 on the measure to ban capital punishment. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam has indicated his support for the measure.

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Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Sumo Citrus
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Don Bay has been in the citrus business for over 50 years now, and according to him, his most recent growing endeavor has been the most challenging. Alongside his son Darren and grandson Luke, Don cultivates Sumo Citrus®, one of the most difficult fruits to grow. The Bay family runs San Joaquin Growers Ranch in Porterville, California, one of the farms where the fruit is grown in the United States.

Sumo Citrus was originally developed in Japan, and is an extraordinary hybrid of mandarin, pomelo and navel oranges.

The fruit is temperamental, and it can take time to get a thriving crop. The trees require year-round care, and it takes five years from seed to fruit until they're ready for harvest. Thanks to expert citrus growers like the Bay family though, Sumo Citrus have flourished in California. Don and his son Darren worked together through trial and error to perfect their crop of Sumo Citrus. Darren is now an expert on cultivating this famously temperamental fruit, and his son Luke is learning from him every step of the way.

Don, Darren and Luke BayAll photos courtesy of Sumo Citrus

"Luke's been involved as early as he could come out," Darren said in a YouTube video.

"Having both my son and grandson [working with me] is basically what I've dreamt about," said Don. "To have been able to develop this orchard and have them work on it and work with me — then I don't have to do all the work."

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Just over a month after passing the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths from COVID-19, the United States has surpassed another one. As of today, more than half a million Americans have been lost to the virus that's held the world in a pandemic holding pattern for almost a year. It's a number that seemed unfathomable even six months ago, and yet here we are.

Despite increasing vaccine rollouts allowing us to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the loss we've experienced is immense. Having a president who not only understands loss on a personal level—having endured the tragic loss of his wife and baby daughter earlier in life and the death of his son just six years ago—but who conveys with compassion the grief of the nation as we mark this milestone is a comforting change.

Tonight, the White House honored the 500,000+ lives lost with a display of 500 candles lining the steps of the building, with each candle representing 1000 Americans. The president and first lady, along with the vice president and second gentleman, held a memorial moment of silence outside the South Portico as a military band played "Amazing Grace."

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