Agonising wait begins as twins put marathon op behind them
THE mother of conjoined Irish twin boys cradled them in her arms in the hours before they began their marathon 20-hour separation surgery in London yesterday.
Angie Benhaffaf hugged and cradled little Hassan and Hussein throughout the night as she and her husband, Azzedine, prayed for "one more miracle" for the four-month-old east Cork twins.
The couple yesterday maintained a day-long vigil at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSCH) in London as surgeons performed the operation.
Hassan and Hussein went into the operating theatre shortly before 8am yesterday with up to 20 surgeons set to work throughout the day to separate them.
Angie and her husband, Azzedine, were being supported in London last night by friends and family who travelled over from east Cork.
The couple's two girls, Malika (4) and Iman (2), are being cared for by Angie's aunt Val and her brother Chris, while she maintains a vigil at GOSCH with Azzedine.
The gruelling surgery was expected to conclude -- if no complications arise -- around 3am today.
The boys will then be transferred to the intensive care unit where they are expected to remain for several days.
The boys -- who do not share any major organs -- are under the care of Europe's most experienced specialist in separating conjoined twins, Cork-born Edward Kiely.
Angie Benhaffaf stressed in previous interviews that the family has the utmost faith in Mr Kiely -- and that the twins have a fighting chance.
"I asked him what were his realistic views on their separation and he told me he would have every hope for the two babies surviving -- but it was a huge, huge operation," she said.
Angie and Azzedine have been overwhelmed with messages of support, cards and prayers from all over the world.
The couple relocated to London two weeks ago so they could support Hassan and Hussein throughout the operation and their subsequent recovery. The Benhaffafs may have to base themselves in London for up to four months.
Yesterday's surgery featured a multi-disciplinary team from GOSCH including paediatric surgeons, paediatric anaesthetists and plastic surgeons, while expert cardiologists and support staff were also on standby. Four surgical teams were available, each working on a phased, rota basis.
Hassan and Hussein are the first conjoined twins born to an Irish mother since 2005.