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‘New Year miracle’ twins delivered in Toronto apartment lobby

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When Melissa Arrubla saw her twin boy quickly coming into the world, the Toronto woman knew she wouldn’t be delivering her babies in a hospital.

Crouching beside a bench in the lobby of her parents’ apartment building on Dixon Rd., she had her younger brother call their mother waiting in the driveway, who had dashed out minutes ago to pick up the family van. With the boy’s cord still attached, they all panicked when the twin girl emerged, legs first.

Melissa Arrubla and Anderson, 7, hold Elian and Elena.
Melissa Arrubla and Anderson, 7, hold Elian and Elena.  (Steve Russell / Toronto Star)

“Call 911!” Arrubla yelled at her mother, Liliana, who was trying to catch the baby while she also tried to get through to the emergency services.

That commotion set the scene of the family’s memorable New Year’s Day as they ushered in little Elian at 5:03 a.m. and Elena, who arrived 12 minutes later.

“We started our new year with a bang,” Arrubla said with a chuckle while resting in her bed at Etobicoke General Hospital. “What happened was surreal, but I’m glad we’re here and everyone is okay.

Arrubla had just visited the hospital in the evening of Dec. 31 for a final cervical gel treatment and had celebrated New Year’s Eve with a McDonald’s meal before she was to return at 8:30 a.m. the next day to deliver the twins through induced labour.

She and her mother had set the alarm on their cell phones for 6:30 a.m., but, by the time the alarms went off, Arrubla had already delivered.

Arrubla said she started feeling consistent pains around 4:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day and immediatley woke up her mother, realizing the twins simply couldn’t wait for another four hours.

“We knew we got to go. We didn’t even have time to grab our jackets,” recalled Arrubla, 28, who left home with just a thin blue sweater, striped pyjama pants and pink flats. “I could feel the head of the baby coming out and I told Junior to get mom right away.”

With her Honda Odyssey outside still running, Liliana rushed into the lobby and looked in horror at Elian’s head emerging from under her daughter, who was bending over with her legs apart.

“Her pants were pulled down and I saw the head of the baby,” said the still-emotional grandmother. “I just grabbed the baby inside her pants and started rubbing his head to make sure he’s breathing. He had blood all over and was slimey and slippery. I told my son to get my husband to bring us towels and blankets to keep the baby warm.”

With one arm holding the baby boy — still with his umbilical cord attached to the mother, Liliana spoke to the dispatcher while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

“My daughter is having twins and we are in the lobby,” the 49-year-old grandmother remembered telling the dispatcher. “We have no scissors, nothing to cut the cord.”

Assignment Editor Amber Shortt explains how reporters found Melissa Arrubla and her twin boys, which were delivered in a Toronto apartment lobby. All three are doing fine.

With the help of her son and husband, Liliana sat Arrubla down beside the bench while she tried to calm everyone’s nerves.

Then they saw Elena’s tiny feet and her legs emerging from under Arrubla.

“Elena was half way out. She wasn’t showing her arms and we were afraid to do anything in case she got her cord around her neck. I told Melissa don’t push no more. We didn’t know what to do and must wait for the paramedics,” said Liliana, still shaken. “The paramedics arrived within five, six minutes, but that felt an eternity for us.”

Three ambulances and one fire truck showed up and took over. One pair of paramedics attended Elian as the other pair tried to rescue Elena who was still stuck.

Jesse McArthur, one of four paramedics attending the call, said time is crucial in delivering a breech birth.

Grandmother Liliana Arrubla looks over her newest grandchildren Elian and Elena.
Grandmother Liliana Arrubla looks over her newest grandchildren Elian and Elena.  (Steve Russell/Toronto Star)

“It’s the kind of scenario that we are trained for, but they don’t happen often. The fact that we had a breech baby upped the urgency of the call,” said McArthur, who arrived with his partner, Ross Thomas, minutes after the call and had not been involved in a delivery in his five-and-a-half years’ experience as a paramedic.

“This was unique, because we were not delivering a baby in our truck or at home, but in the lobby of an apartment building. This was far from what we had expected at 5 a.m. on New Year’s day.”

McArthur credited his two colleagues, Sara Richard and Lyndsay Piper, who safely delivered the breech birth, as well as Arrubla’s mother for keeping everyone’s nerves in check. When Elena finally came into the world, the paramedics passed Liliana the scissors to cut the baby girl’s cord.

“That was so perfect. Everything was so beautiful,” said Liliana, looking at her granddaughter as she held her at the hospital.

On her way to hospital with her twins, Arrubla called and broke the news of the births to her husband, Sebastian Cuartas, a welder. He was at work and supposed to meet her at the hospital at 8 a.m. for the planned induced delivery. “He’s had twins on his side of the family and he was just overwhelmed,” Arrubla said.

Elena, who was born 6 pounds 5 ounces, was put on a respirator for oxygen briefly and her brother, 6 pounds 8 ounces, had to stay in hospital for treatment of his high red blood cell count. Despite the commotion, the family did manage to track down the twins’ times of birth through cell phone records to one another and the authorities.

Both Arrubla and her mother said they were grateful to the paramedics and the dispatcher who helped bring the twins into the world safely.

Mother and grandmother were happy that Elian and Elena were a quick labour amounting to just 45 minutes, compared to the nine-hour labour for their big brother, Anderson, now 7, and seven hours for big sister, Cataleya, now 6.

“Thank you for getting it so fast. They did an amazing job,” said Arrubla, who just started her University of Guelph-Humber online degree program in early childhood education in September and is set to start her new semester on Monday.

Nicholas Keung is a Toronto-based reporter covering immigration. Follow him on Twitter: @nkeung

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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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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Anglais

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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Anglais

Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar is the Latest to Hatch in West Island’s Bubbling Restaurant Scene

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Wings are the thing at the latest restaurant to make its mark on Montreal’s West Island: Birdhouse Wingerie & Bar.

At the buzzy new Dollard-Des Ormeaux eatery, the bird limbs come aplenty, with a menu listing eleven “wet & messy” wings, including smoked apple habanero, sriracha lime, and cherry cola BBQ; and four — cacio e pepe, ketchups chip, Nashville hot, and the garlicky, lemon pepper “vampire slayer” — dry rub flavours. They come 10 for $18 or 20 for $34, plus the option of ranch, parmesan, or blue cheese dipping sauce.

Tacos, nachos, poutines (one made with bone marrow, another with tater tots), smashed burgers, salads, and a classic buttermilk fried chicken dinner are just sampling of the other dishes that round out the offering. On the drinks side, there are cocktails, sangrias, and spiked milkshakes in popular chocolate bar flavours: After Eight, Skor, Bounty, or Reeses.

Opened on July 5, Birdhouse is among a recent influx of restaurants to grace the island’s western end, including birria taco slinger Tacos Don Rigo and barbecue joint Smoke Box — a double whammy in the same Pierrefonds area strip mall. That comes in addition to plans for Fairview Pointe Claire’s incoming “District Gourmand” (slated to usher in Tommy Café), and, of course, a number of the area’s longer-standing stalwarts — from southern belle Bistro Nolah to old-school casse-croûte Smoked Meat Pete — that have helped bolster the West Island’s culinary credentials.

The brand-new Brunswick Boulevard restaurant is the brainchild of Montreal entrepreneur Lorne Schwartz, restaurateur George Massouras (of Madisons and Arahova Souvlaki), and among the other partners involved, Brahm Mauer, son of the founder of beloved buffalo hot wings expert Wings ‘n’ Things. Mauer has tried his hand at reviving the original Wings ‘n’ Things recipe — the restaurant originally opened in 1986 — over the years, including with a Royalmount Avenue location in 2012, then as a roaming summertime food truck and NDG pop-up. That same truck has now been made over with a Birdhouse-branded livery to be deployed for private events.

A likely draw to many, Birdhouse is reprising the “famous flavours, untouched” of the once-upon-a-time NDG staple, represented on its menu as “The Legendary WNT Buffalo” chicken wing.

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