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    Tina Velazquez was in her kitchen when she heard someone sit down and start playing the grand piano in the other room. The Pembroke Pines resident figured it was her husband, Willie, returning home from work early. Instead, she walked into the surprise of a lifetime — her not even 4-year-old son, Jacob, at the keys. 'I asked Jacob 'how was he doing that?'' Velazquez recalled. 'He replied, 'I watched daddy.'' Fast forward seven years and Jacob isn't just surprising his mom anymore. Last month, the now 10-year-old performed Chopin's 'Fantaisie-Impromptu' on the Harry Connick Jr. Show. Before that, he performed with the Imperial Symphony Orchestra for the group's annual Autism Awareness Month Cookie Concert. 'It was a very moving experience to watch my son, who was once considered nonverbal and I didn't know if I would ever hear his voice, up there on stage,' Velazquez said. She and her husband were joined by multiple family members to watch Jacob play the Lakeland concert. 'I loved seeing the smile on his face when he glanced down to see them sitting in the front row.' The fourth grader was diagnosed with autism when he was around three — something Tina considers to be a factor to her son's prodigy-like skills. 'After learning the score, he plays from memory,' she said. 'I think being on the autism spectrum gives Jacob a certain 'hyper focus' that helps him memorize pieces so quickly and efficiently.' Jacob's parents enrolled him in piano lessons by the time he was four, despite being turned away by multiple instructors. 'Most schools said they didn't work with kids under seven,' his mom explained. 'Some said to come back when he was five. We really felt that he would benefit from lessons and finally found a teacher that agreed to work with him.' When Jacob flew through books in days that would take other students months, his instructor, Jaffird Sierra, realized Jacob was special. Sierra enrolled Jacob into a competition where at 4-years-old, he performed Mozart's 'Minuet.' His feet swung off the bench as he played. He was the youngest kid in the competition and ended up taking home the double platinum trophy. In 2015, the then-7-year-old caught the attention of pop princess, Taylor Swift. After a video of him playing a medley of Swift songs gained over half a million views on YouTube, the singer and songwriter reached out via Twitter. 'I HAVE to give you a hug for that beautiful piano medley you did!' Swift wrote in a Tweet in August, 2015. She was on her '1989' world tour at the time. 'Please come to a show on my tour and say hi to me? My treat.' Now, he attends the Miami International Piano Academy at Nova Southeastern University, an audition-based program which is usually reserved for adults only. He also receives instruction from Giselle Brodsky, the Founder and Creative Director of the Miami International Piano Festival During his Harry Connick Jr. Show appearance, Jacob wore a blazer, blue jeans and Converse sneakers and spoke with confidence. 'To me, autism doesn't mean we can't be capable of doing things,' he told Connick Jr. 'But it does mean that we're unique, different and cool.' Connick Jr. replied with a grin, 'I could tell that already.' The songwriter and talk show host also followed Jacob on Twitter, which Tina says 'meant the world to him.' 'Harry Connick Jr. is truly a one of a kind, caring human being,' she said. 'He told Jacob that he would be a fan for life.' Tina and Willie are considering surprising Jacob with tickets to see Connick Jr. perform at the Hard Rock in June. As for what's next, Jacob recently finished Beethoven's 'Concerto No. 1' — which is over half-an-hour long — in its entirety and is looking forward to performing it with an orchestra. He'll be performing at DJ Irie Weekend — the annual summer fundraiser held by the Miami Heat's DJ and is working on writing a children's picture book to inspire other kids on the autism spectrum. The elementary schooler has also caught the attention of a production company working on a potential HBO documentary. 'Jacob is a loving and smart 10-year-old boy,' his mom said. 'He's a gifted pianist but there is also so much more to him. He loves playing drums, which he is self-taught. He also enjoys video games, riding his bike and listening to audio books. Everything Jacob does is done with passion and intensity.' ___ Information from: Sun Sentinel , http://www.sun-sentinel.com/
  • It was with the flip of a coin that identical twins and recent University of South Florida graduates Jonathan and Matthew Willman found a new way to differentiate themselves. Until then, only minor details separated the 23-year-olds. As teenagers, they wore distinguishable shoe colors. Jonathan, the eldest by a few minutes, went with black and his younger brother Matthew with white. As USF students, they used their curly locks to set themselves apart, with Jonathan growing hair past his shoulders and Matthew trimming his just above. Almost everything else about them is similar, from their hipster fashion to their degrees: a major in biomedical sciences and double minors in psychology and biomedical physics. Even their class schedules were always identical. Then, a year and a half ago, they chose their medical specialties. Two Ph.D. students at the Byrd Alzheimer's Institute needed assistants, one to help with the research of Alzheimer's and the other with Angelman syndrome, a genetic disorder causing developmental disabilities in kids. 'We let chance decide,' Jonathan said. 'Heads, I would do Alzheimer's research, while tails was Matthew would do Alzheimer's. By default, the other person would de Angelmans. It was heads.' Still, they admit, both diseases are neurodegenerative in nature, so there is hardly a major chasm between the fields. 'That's just how we handle all our stuff,' Matthew said. 'Small variations.' The Sarasota natives were never the type of twins who wanted to dress alike. 'My parents tried,' Matthew said. 'By the age of 6 we said no.' But their interests as kids were alike. They both loved the outdoors, building computers and reading, each averaging 25 books a year. Their original plan was to become writers and English professors at the same university. Then, while attending the State College of Florida in Bradenton they decided to change paths —together, of course. Medicine had always interested the brothers, so they agreed to take an anatomy and a physiology class. If they enjoyed each, they would become doctors. The next year, they were pursuing that career at USF — again, together. 'We just like working together,' Jonathan said. 'If we succeed, we want to succeed together. If we fail, we'll fail together.' They never failed. They graduated this month with matching 4.0 grade point averages, earned by studying together and competing against each other. 'We always ended up with the same grades,' Matthew said. 'We'd get the same questions wrong or different questions wrong but get the same grade.' 'And when we competed to see who could get the most A+'s,' added Jonathan, 'we'd end up with the same amount but in different classes.' They will be taking the next year off from school to study for the Medical College Admission Test while continuing their research at the Byrd Institute. They don't yet have preferences for medical schools, though they'll likely stick together. And after that, perhaps the same hospitals too? 'We are trying to create unique aspects of our personality, so we are not totally the same,' Matthew said. 'But I would enjoy that.' Jonathan figures they should probably avoid working the same emergency room shifts. 'It seems like it would be annoying to hear all day, 'Paging Dr. Willman and Dr. Willman,' ' he said. ___ Information from: Tampa Bay Times (St. Petersburg, Fla.), http://www.tampabay.com.
  • The Florida-LSU game at the Southeastern Conference baseball tournament has been suspended until Saturday because of dense fog. LSU was leading 10-0 in the sixth inning when visibility became too poor to continue playing. It's the latest delay in a tournament that's had at least one weather-related stoppage in each of the first four days. The game will resume Saturday at 10 a.m. CT. The winner will face Arkansas later Saturday. LSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third inning and broke the game open with seven runs in the sixth before the game was delayed. LSU's Antoine Duplantis had two hits, including a double, and three RBIs. LSU's Matthew Beck started for just the second time this season and threw four scoreless innings.
  • Amy Majors can only move 50 feet within the confines of her Senoia home. Although if the 33-year-old single mother woman stretches far enough, she can reach the carport, where she wistfully watches her young son Michael play outdoors. Majors is tethered to an oxygen tank 24 hours a day, connected by a tube that is a thin lifeline between her existence and an almost certain death. The Senoia woman is living on borrowed time. Doctors say she needs a double lung transplant within the next two years. 'If I don't get the transplant, the doctors give me 24 months,' Majors said. 'I have a 6-year-old. I have too much to do. I've got to help him with his homework and go through school. I want to see him go to prom and to college. I want to live.' Majors has Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, or PAH, a disease she inherited from her biological mother. The Senoia native was adopted as a young girl and learned about the disease when she was 13 years old. According to lung.org, PAH is high blood pressure within the lungs. The disease forms scar tissue in the blood vessels, causing them to narrow and making it harder for blood to flow through the lungs. Patients with PAH may feel as if they're slowly suffocating. Majors was horrified by what she learned, but admitted at that time in her life, she felt invincible. 'When I googled 'PAH,' I thought it was the worst thing someone could ever go through,' she said. 'But I played sports growing up, softball and volleyball. I thought, 'I don't have that.' I thought I was fine.' But in 2009, while Majors was 24 weeks pregnant with her first child, something went terribly wrong. The then-25-year-old woman began fainting with little warning. She was rushed to Piedmont Fayette hospital and then transferred to Piedmont Atlanta. After a series of tests, doctors delivered the devastating diagnosis: Majors had pulmonary arterial hypertension and was going into heart failure. Specialists delivered another traumatic blow when they told Majors she would have to terminate her pregnancy. 'They told me I had seven days to live if I continued to move forward with pregnancy,' she remembered. 'There was a 75 percent chance I would die giving birth to the baby naturally. Those percentages went up to 90 percent if I had a c-section.' There was also no guarantee the baby, a little girl, would survive the birth either, Majors said. Distraught by the news, she consulted other physicians and discussed the situation with her family. Reluctantly, Majors decided to terminate her pregnancy to save her life. The Senoia woman said it was one of the hardest decisions she's ever made. 'I could tell it was serious because there were so many specialists coming in and out of my hospital room and decisions had to be made within a few days,' she said. 'I never thought I would have to terminate a pregnancy. That was never an option for me. That decision was the first time I cried during my diagnosis.' Majors spent 16 days in the hospital before being released. Before she left, doctors inserted a port in her chest, plus gave her equipment that would pump life-saving medication into her body every 45 seconds. Majors had to learn how to properly mix the medications before she went home, she said. Eventually, her health stabilized. She was able to maintain her PAH symptoms through oral medications for the next few years. In January 2012, Majors and her then-husband found themselves back at Piedmont Atlanta hospital. This time, it was a joyous occasion. The couple was in the hospital for the birth of their adopted son, Michael. 'We were back in the same place and in the same maternity ward receiving the best gift of our lives,' Majors remembered. 'We were there before and thought we had lost everything. But three years later, we felt like we gained everything back. It was an amazing feeling.' From 2012 until 2016, Majors raised her son while working seven days a week at two different jobs: one as a Rite Aid pharmacy tech; the other as a home caregiver for the elderly and infirm. In order to keep up her energy levels, doctors placed a new port and catheter in Majors chest, and gave her another medicinal pump. But beginning in June 2016, Major's health began to decline after a series of infections within her catheter, also known as a Hickman line, and in her intravenous line. At one point, Majors said she almost bled to death after an open wound wouldn't stop bleeding. Fortunately, surgeons were able to repair the injury. While Major's health deteriorated, so did her marriage, she said. She and her husband divorced in 2017. Majors was given primary custody of Michael. Infections continued to plague the now-single mother throughout 2017. Once again, she found herself near death after having a bad reaction to an antibiotic. 'I slowly felt like I was suffocating,' Majors said. 'I was looking at the hospital lights, tears rolling down my cheeks and thinking, 'Is this how it's going to end? I'm going to suffocate to death?' Your breathing is cut off before your brain is, so you're aware of what's happening . you just can't breathe.' After recovering from the allergic reaction, she began coughing up blood. Doctors rushed her into surgery and discovered some of the arterial vessels inside her lungs had burst, which is not uncommon for patients with PAH. But they also noticed the disease and the recurring infections were taking a toll on Majors' lungs and heart. During a follow up appointment in April 2018, doctors informed Majors her only chance at survival was a double lung transplant. According to Majors, the doctors told her, 'This is what we need to do. The way you're heading, we don't have a lot of time.' While time is not on her side, Majors is caught in a waiting game. Majors said she needs to complete three days of physical and mental evaluations, plus prove she is financially stable before an Emory hospital committee will even consider placing her on the transplant list. The transplant board will hold Majors' fate in their hands. 'My case is reduced to a balance sheet,' she said. 'The committee doesn't know everything I've conquered in the past nine years, but my life depends on these 11 people. If I'm denied a transplant, that means someone else has hit the 'game over' button, and that scares me more than anything else.' If approved, Majors may have to wait two or more years before a new set of lungs becomes available, according to emoryhealthcare.org. While the transplant will give Majors a new lease on life, doctors also reportedly warned her that the surgery may only be temporary. 'I asked them, 'What is my life expectancy after this?' They said based off statistics, 10 to 12 years with the transplant,' she said. 'The organs will have to be replaced every 10 years. The doctors said they've done a double lung transplant on the same person twice, but not three times.' Despite the shocking revelation, Majors still plans to move forward with the transplant. She said the decision is not just for her, but more as a gift to her 6-year-old son. 'I would rather give Michael the best 10 years of the best of my life, running around with him, chasing him, watching him playing football, getting his license, riding bicycles and traveling. Things I can't do right now,' Majors said. 'He's depending on me. He's my heart, my breath and my everything. Majors hopes to head to Emory for testing in early June. ___ Information from: The Times-Herald, http://www.times-herald.com
  • The winning numbers in Thursday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's 'Fantasy 5' game were: 17-22-33-36-37 (seventeen, twenty-two, thirty-three, thirty-six, thirty-seven) Estimated jackpot: $125,000
  • The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's 'Fantasy 5' game were: 04-11-14-24-27 (four, eleven, fourteen, twenty-four, twenty-seven) Estimated jackpot: $150,000
  • The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Florida Lottery's 'Lucky Money' game were: 10-13-42-44, Lucky Ball: 3 (ten, thirteen, forty-two, forty-four; Lucky Ball: three) Estimated jackpot: $550,000
  • The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's 'Cash 3 Night' game were: 7-3-5 (seven, three, five)
  • The winning numbers in Friday evening's drawing of the Georgia Lottery's 'Cash 4 Night' game were: 6-6-7-9 (six, six, seven, nine)
  • A local mother has now had 13 men show up at her home for sex, and she recorded the most recent encounter. In the video, the man tells Katie Elizabeth he was communicating with the username “Jenny5120” on the dating website Plenty of Fish. Just like the other men, he said he had been told to meet at Elizabeth’s address. Men had previously been communicating with “Jessica3130.” As of Friday evening, both profiles had been removed from the Plenty of Fish website. Elizabeth said the harassment has been getting so bad, one man showed up at her workplace on Friday afternoon.