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Baby Amira was born with a broken heart — her mother is praying for a miracle to fix it

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She is fighting for time to love her daughter.

Ideally years. But she’ll take months. Hours even.

Because Jaiden Cowley knows that every moment with Amira is a gift. It has been since she was born 10 months ago with a broken heart.

Amira is waiting for a tiny, strong new one.

“We didn’t know if Amira would make it to Christmas,” says Jaiden, herself just 19. “I live every day like it could be her last.”

A life-time ago, on her first day working at a call centre in Hamilton (she was saving for college to become a nurse), Jaiden learned she was pregnant. Nineteen weeks into the pregnancy, she got more news: there was something drastically wrong with the baby’s heart. It was a congenital defect.

Some of the doctors suggested an abortion. Or said Jaiden should have the child, take it home and let it die quietly in the first few days.

But Jaiden chose another option — to do whatever she could to keep her baby alive. The baby’s father decided not to be involved.


On February 12, at 39-weeks gestation, Jaiden was induced at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto. A team was ready to whisk the newborn away.

“I pushed her out and she was gone,” says Jaiden, her voice catching. The new mom didn’t get to hold her baby. Or even see her.

Amira — it means princess in Arabic — has Heterotaxy Syndrome. Her heart is on the wrong side of her body. And it doesn’t have all the right parts.

She was 44 hours old when she had her first surgery. Two days after that, she went into cardiac arrest.

“She died right in front of me,” says Jaiden.

Amira was placed on life support in the Cardiac Critical Care Unit, her chest left open so doctors could peer in.

“I saw her little heart,” says her mom. “It was only the size of a grape.”

Amira spent 180 days in hospital. During that time, doctors told Jaiden her daughter would need a heart transplant.

Jaiden was crushed yet again.

“Why is the heart that I gave her not working?” she agonized.

On June 11, Amira was placed on the transplant list, through the Trillium Gift of Hope Registry.

Amira is a strong princess and in August, she moved in with her mom at the Ronald McDonald House near Sick Kids. They have been there ever since, seeing specialists and waiting to dash to the hospital should a pediatric donor heart become available.

Jaiden’s mom and other family from Hamilton visit on weekends.

Amira is abeautiful girl. She is plump and smiley, often sporting a sparkly cloth headband with a big cheerful bow. She says “Mama” and her laugh is music.

Christmas day will be spent at Ronald McDonald House. Jaiden has to isolate herself and the baby from other guests because she can’t risk infection.

Right now, Amira is a Status 3 on the Trillium transplant registry. Only Status 4 recipients are more critical, being on the verge of death.

Another child whom Jaiden met at Ronald McDonald House just got her new heart. She spent 500 days on the wait list.

Pediatric organ donations are a rare commodity. Children just don’t die at the rate of adults and those who do are less likely to have their parents’ consent to be donors. This is why Jaiden is sharing her story. She wants grieving parents to know their donations could save other children. And that a bit of their child can live on.

Over the past five years, 65 patients under the age of one have received an organ transplant in Ontario, according to Trillium. There have been nine organ donors under the age of one.

Organs are matched by size, blood type and other factors, but not age. Therefore donors under the age of one don’t necessarily correspond with the 65 patients under one that received an organ transplant.

As of Dec. 17 there are 11 patients under the age of one on the transplant waiting list.

If Amira gets a heart, she has a good chance of living until she is 10. After that, she will need another heart transplant, doctors say.

That is a lot of agony to go through. There are great risks of complications and Amira will be on anti-rejection drugs forever.

So why do it?

It only takes Jaiden a heartbeat.

“I want to know who she is. I want her to know love.”

A Go Fund Me account called Help Heal Amiras Broken Heart has been set-up to pay for some of her medical supplies that are not covered by OHIP. The goal is $5,000, with about $1,300 being raised so far.

Susan Clairmont’s commentary appears regularly in The Spectator. sclairmont@thespec.com905-526-3539 | @susanclairmont

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Anglais

Nostalgia and much more with Starburst XXXtreme

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Get a taste of adventure with Starburst XXXtreme based on the legendary NetEnt Game. The nostalgic themes are sure to capture fans of the classic version as they get treated to higher intensity, better visuals, and features. The most significant element of the game is its volatility. Patience will not be an essential virtue considering the insane gameplay, and there is a lot of win potential involved. It retains the original makeup of the previous game while adding a healthy dose of adrenaline. 

Starburst Visuals and Symbols

The game is definitely more conspicuous than before. The setting happens over a 5-reel, 3-row game grid with nine fixed win lines, which function if a succession from the left to the right reel is present. Only those players that that attain the highest win per bet line are paid. From a visual standpoint, the Starburst XXXtreme slots illustrates lightning effects behind the reels, which is not surprising as it is inherited from the original version. Available themes include Classic, Jewels, and Space. The game is also available in both desktop and mobile versions, which is advantageous for players considering the global pandemic. According to Techguide, American gamers are increasingly having more engaging gaming experiences to socialize to fill the gap of in-person interaction. Starburst XXXtreme allows them to fill the social void at a time when there is so much time to be had indoors. 

Starburst XXXTreme Features

Players get to alternate on three features which are Starburst Wilds, XXXtreme Spins, and Random Wilds. The first appears on reels 2,3, or 4. When these land, they expand to cover all positions while also calculating the wins. They are also locked for a respin. If a new one hits, it also becomes locked while awarding another respin. Starburst XXXtreme offers a choice between two scenarios for a higher stake. In one scenario with a ten times stake, the Starburst Wild is set on random on reels 2,3, or 4, and a multiplier starts the respin. The second scenario, which has a 95 times stake, starts with two guaranteed starburst wilds on reels 2,3, or 4. it also plays out using respin game sequence and features. The game also increases the potential with the Random Wilds feature to add Starburst Wilds to a vacant reel at the end of a spin. Every Starburst Wild gives a random multiplier with potential wins of x2, x3, x5, x10, x25, x50, x100, or even x150.

The new feature is sure to be a big hit with the gaming market as online gambling has shown significant growth during the lockdown. AdAge indicates the current casino customer base is an estimated one in five Americans, so Starburst XXXtreme’s additional features will achieve considerable popularity. 

What We Think About The Game

The gambling market has continued to diversify post-pandemic, so it is one of the most opportune times to release an online casino-based game. Thankfully Starburst XXXtreme features eye-catching visuals, including the jewels and space themes. These attract audience participation and make the gameplay inviting. The game also has a nostalgic edge. The previous NetEnt iteration featured similar visuals and gameplay, so the audience has some familiarity with it. The producers have revamped this version by tweaking the features to improve the volatility and engagement. 

That is characterized by the potential win cap of 200,000 times the bet. Starburst XXXtreme does not just give betting alternatives for players that want to go big. The increase of multipliers also provides a great experience. If the respins in the previous version were great, knowing that multipliers can go hundreds of times overtakes the game to a new level. 

Players should get excited about this offering. All of the features can be triggered within a single spin. Whether one plays the standard game or takes the XXXtreme spin route, it is possible to activate all of the features. Of course, the potential 200,000 times potential is a huge carrot. However, the bet size is probably going to be restricted and vary depending on the casino. It is also worth pointing out that a malfunction during the gameplay will void all of the payouts and progress. Overall, the game itself has been designed to provide a capped win of 200,000 times the original bet. 

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Anglais

‘We’re back’: Montreal festival promoters happy to return but looking to next year

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In downtown Montreal, it’s festival season.

In the city’s entertainment district, a musical act was conducting a sound check on stage Friday evening — the second day of the French-language version of the renowned Just For Laughs comedy festival. Tickets for many of the festival’s free outdoor shows — limited by COVID-19 regulations — were sold out.

Two blocks away, more than 100 people were watching an acoustic performance by the Isaac Neto Trio — part of the last weekend of the Festival International Nuits d’Afrique, a celebration of music from the African continent and the African diaspora.

With COVID-19 restrictions continuing to limit capacity, festival organizers say they’re glad to be back but looking forward to next year when they hope border restrictions and capacity limits won’t affect their plans.

Charles Décarie, Just For Laughs’ CEO and president, said this is a “transition year.”

“Even though we have major constraints from the public health group in Montreal, we’ve managed to design a festival that can navigate through those constraints,” Décarie said.

The French-language Juste pour rire festival began on July 15 and is followed by the English-language festival until July 31.

When planning began in February and March, Décarie said, organizers came up with a variety of scenarios for different crowd sizes, ranging from no spectators to 50 per cent of usual capacity.

“You’ve got to build scenarios,” he said. “You do have to plan a little bit more than usual because you have to have alternatives.”

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MELS new major movie studio to be built in Montreal

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MONTREAL — MELS Studios will build a new film studio in Montreal, filling some of the gap in supply to meet the demand of Hollywood productions.

MELS president Martin Carrier said on Friday that MELS 4 studio construction will begin « as soon as possible », either in the fall or winter of next year. The studio could host productions as early as spring 2023.

The total investment for the project is $76 million, with the Quebec government contributing a $25 million loan. The project will create 110 jobs, according to the company.

The TVA Group subsidiary’s project will enable it to stand out « even more » internationally, according to Quebecor president and CEO Pierre Karl Péladeau. In the past, MELS Studios has hosted several major productions, including chapters of the X-Men franchise. The next Transformers movie is shooting this summer in Montreal.

Péladeau insisted that local cultural productions would also benefit from the new facility, adding that the studio ensures foreign revenues and to showcase talent and maintain an industry of Quebec producers.

STUDIO SHORTAGE

The film industry is cramped in Montreal.

According to a report published last May by the Bureau du cinéma et de la télévision du Québec (BCTQ), there is a shortage of nearly 400,000 square feet of studio space.

With the addition of MELS 4, which will be 160,000 square feet, the company is filling part of the gap.

Carrier admitted that he has had to turn down contracts because of the lack of space, representing missed opportunities of « tens of millions of dollars, not only for MELS, but also for the Quebec economy. »

« Montreal’s expertise is in high demand, » said Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante, who was present at the announcement.

She said she received great testimonials from « Netflix, Disney, HBO and company » during an economic mission to Los Angeles in 2019.

« What stands out is that they love Montreal because of its expertise, knowledge and beauty. We need more space, like MELS 4, » she said.

There is still not enough capacity in Quebec, acknowledged Minister of Finance, the Economy and Innovation Eric Girard.

« It is certain that the government is concerned about fairness and balance, so if other requests come in, we will study them with the same seriousness as we have studied this one, » he said.

Grandé Studios is the second-largest player in the industry. Last May, the company said it had expansion plans that should begin in 2022. Investissement Québec and Bell are minority shareholders in the company.

For its part, MELS will have 400,000 square feet of production space once MELS 4 is completed. The company employs 450 people in Quebec and offers a range of services including studio and equipment rentals, image and sound postproduction, visual effects and a virtual production platform.

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