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‘New Year miracle’ twins delivered in Toronto apartment lobby

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When Melissa Arrubla saw her twin boy’s head sliding out between her legs, the Toronto woman knew she didn’t have time to get to the hospital to deliver her babies.

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 umbiblical 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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Ecology

Pumped Milk Gives Infants Different Bacteria Than Breastfeeding, Study Says

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baby feeding milk bottle

(Credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

Mother’s milk provides sustenance for babies. Now researchers find pumped breast milk exposes newborns to more disease-causing bacteria than milk directly from the breast. The discovery suggests breastfeeding practices could shift the makeup of microorganisms in breast milk and infants’ digestive systems.

“We were surprised that the method of feeding was the most consistent factor associated with milk microbiota composition,” said Meghan Azad, a medical geneticist at the Children’s Hospital Research Institute of Manitoba in Canada, who led the new research.

Mighty Milk

Once considered sterile, researchers now know breast milk is full of bacteria. The microbes are thought to help set up infants’ digestive tracts with an ecosystem of microorganisms that will aid the growing human’s digestive and immune systems. Azad and her team were initially curious about this collection of bacteria in infants known as the infant gut microbiome. In an earlier study, they found breastfeeding affected babies’ gut bacteria the most. So, in the new research, the scientists probed the microbes in breast milk.

The researchers checked out the microbes in breast milk from nearly 400 nursing mothers and their three to four month old babies. The mommy-baby pairs are a part of a Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development birth cohort study known as the CHILD study, a long-term project looking to find the source of pediatric allergies. The researchers also looked at other elements — maternal age, smoking status and the microbes in babies mouths, to name a few — that could affect what bacteria are in breast milk.

Pumping Problem

The microbes in breast milk varied drastically between mothers, the researchers found, and both mom and baby mold the milk microbiome.

“Our results suggest that the infant’s oral bacteria are important in shaping the milk microbiota,” said Shirin Moossavi, a medical microbiology student in Azad’s lab, who authored the research.

But the biggest factor was whether babies received breast milk straight from the nipple or from a bottle. A family of bacteria that includes E. coli and salmonella were more abundant in pumped breast milk than direct breast milk, the researchers reported Wednesday in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

“It is only in recent years that we have started to understand that there might be differences between direct nursing compared to feeding pumped milk,” Azad said.

“In the future, when we understand the mechanisms better, we might be able to provide recommendations about pump apparatus cleaning and milk storage to minimize the impact on the milk microbiota,” Moossavi added.

But no matter the delivery mode, “overall, breast milk is the best for the infant,” the researchers said.



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NASA Wants to Return to the Moon as Early as This Year

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NASA moon

NASA has big plans for returning to the moon, but private companies will do much of the work. (Credit: NASA)

In November, NASA tapped nine private spaceflight companies who will be allowed to bid on upcoming projects. Yesterday, they elaborated on what those projects would be during an industry forum. Starting as early as this year, NASA hopes to send commercial landers to the lunar surface as the first step toward returning to the moon, this time for good.

Long Lunar To-Do List

There’s a lot of work to be done before permanent or long-term lunar activities can begin. The first tasks will be to practice launching and landing on the moon, as well as answering questions about its surface. There’s plenty of technology NASA wants to see established on the ground before humans are sent back to the moon – and a lot of it is meant to stand in for future Mars settlement as well.

Some of that technology has to do with a recent buzzword among the space settlement community: in-situ resource utilization, or ISRU. This means using materials and resources already available on the moon and, one day, Mars, rather than carting all our resources with us, as has been standard for space missions. This most commonly means using solar power for energy. On the moon, it will also mean extracting water, which can be used for drinking or to power rockets. Both the hydrogen and oxygen that make up water are powerful fuel materials.

So commercial lunar partners will work on how to mine and recycle resources on the moon and make them available for future mission use. They will test habitation for future crewed missions. They’ll prove that they can collect materials from the lunar surface and return them to space or Earth. And they’ll establish communication networks between robots on the moon’s surface, way stations in lunar orbit, and mission control on Earth.

All these commercial endeavors would also need to integrate with NASA’s planned Lunar Gateway. This would be a space station in orbit around the moon that would serve as Grand Central Station for robotic or crewed missions to the lunar surface, or even for deep space missions. NASA hopes to open the Gateway by 2026, with the first power and propulsion elements entering orbit in 2022.



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Climate Change Hearings Signal Congress Is Willing to Address the Issue Again

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climate change

(credit: Roschetzky Photography/Shutterstock)

Climate change is real. It’s happening now. And it presents significant problems for the U.S. across multiple facets of society, according to a panel of climate and policy experts that testified before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

The testimonials were part of the House Science Committee’s first full hearing of the 116th Congress and one of only a handful in the last eight years to address climate change. But that’s about to change. In her opening remarks, House Science Committee Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) said Wednesday’s hearing will be the first of multiple hearings on climate change in the near future.

“Climate change is not just an environmental challenge,” said Robert Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, during his testimony. “It’s an economic challenge, an infrastructure challenge, a public health challenge and a national security challenge.”

Carbon Cuts

For the most part, House representatives were in agreement with the panel that climate change is real and harming not only the environment but the economy and Americans. During the nearly two and half hours of questions that followed the researchers’ testimonies, representatives asked the scientists to identify priorities and sought their suggestions for solutions.

“Human emissions of CO2 must be brought as close to zero as possible with any continued emissions of CO2 balanced by human removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” said Kopp, who suggested expanding forests and using new, but little-tested technologies as a start. “The faster we reduce emissions, the less severe the effects and the lower the risk of unwelcome surprises,” he added.

Cities, states and a number of companies are already taking action by adopting emission reduction targets, but Kopp says these efforts need to grow dramatically and rapidly to effectively manage climate risk.

But Joseph Majkut, a policy expert with the Niskanen Center, a non-partisan think tank based in Washington, D.C., who also testified, acknowledged, “That’s a challenging thing to do.”

“To even get close, we’ll need significant innovation in low-carbon technology, finance and market design in order to be able to provide reliable, affordable and globally accessible low carbon energy,” Majkut said.

Majkut projected that to reach any temperature target, much less the 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) of warming goal set by the IPCC, would require carbon capture and storage of fossil fuels as well as carbon removal technologies in conjunction with renewable energy and storage solutions. He then advocated for research into alternatives to reducing global emissions, such as geoengineering technologies that would offset greenhouse gas production.

The scientists’ recommendations align with many facets of the Green New Deal Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) recently proposed. The legislation calls for a massive policy shift that bolsters the U.S. economy and cuts greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Like the solutions Majkut outlined for the House Science Committee, the Green New Deal lists expanding and upgrading renewable energy sources, removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and increasing carbon storage as ways to achieve its goal.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) and others raised concerns about the cost of such an initiative, asking “If the Green New Deal were implemented immediately, wouldn’t it devastate our economy?” But, says Majkut, reducing CO2 associated with economic activity is “one of the cheapest elements” of the bill.

Adaptive Measures

The scientists testifying before the House also recommended prioritizing research into the ways society might adapt to climate change and called on federal support for studies of how climate change will affect communities, a research topic Kristie Ebi, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, is already looking into.

Ebi, another scientist to testify at the hearing, investigates how climate change affects human health. Researchers have discovered Americans are already suffering and dying from climate change and the impacts will likely only get worse.

“Risk from vector-borne diseases such as malaria, Dengue fever and Lyme disease are projected to increase with warming from 1.5 to 2 C (2.7 to 3.6 F) including potential shifts in their geographic range to areas previously unexposed to these diseases,” Ebi said. “Further, our healthcare infrastructure is vulnerable to extreme events with, for example, many hospitals and healthcare clinics located in coastal regions subject to flooding.”

Yet, there are achievable ways to alleviate the projected risks and costs associated with climate change’s impacts on communities, Ebi said, such as “developing early notification response plans for extreme heat … and incorporating climate projections into emergency preparedness and disaster risk management initiatives.”

“These steps can protect health now and provide a basis for effective adaptation to our future climate,” she added.

And if the world does not slow the rise of greenhouse gas emissions, Americans’ health and the U.S. economy will suffer because of impacts associated with mortality and the ability of people to work outdoors, scientists say. More extreme weather events will also affect human health and the economy.

“We know that in 2018, the losses due to extreme weather were roughly $160 billion just to the U.S.,” said Jennifer Francis, an atmospheric scientists at the Woods Hole Research Center in Falmouth, Massachusetts, during her testimony. “But what keeps me up at night is thinking about my own daughter and the world she will face if we do nothing.”



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