'Little Fighters' set for surgery
Conjoined twins ready for 20-hour procedure
A TWENTY-strong team of surgeons is due to begin a marathon 20-hour separation procedure on Ireland's conjoined twin boys early this morning.
The surgery to separate Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf will involve a multi-disciplinary team from Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in London.
It was scheduled to begin as the boys' parents, Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf, were overwhelmed with messages of support, cards and prayers from all over the world.
They will maintain a vigil at Great Ormond Street as they await news of their boys' progress.
The surgical team includes paediatric surgeons, paediatric anaesthetists and plastic surgeons, while expert cardiologists and support staff will also be on standby.
It is understood that as many as four surgical teams will be available -- each working on a phased, rota basis. The operation will be directed by Cork-born surgeon Dr Edward Kiely, with the team regarded as one of the finest in the world.
However, the surgery is so intricate that special teams have been assigned to different tasks at different stages in the procedure on the four-month-olds.
The Benhaffafs, who have dubbed the boys their 'Little Fighters', said that today's surgery is "their last battle".
"We (are) renewing our appeal for everyone's thoughts and prayers, which will help sustain our boys and our whole family," Mrs Benhaffaf said.
The couple relocated their entire family, including their girls Malika (4) and Iman (2), from east Cork to London two weeks ago so they can support Hassan and Hussein throughout the operation and recovery.
They may have to stay in London for up to four months because Hassan and Hussein will require a substantial period of recuperation and may also require follow-on medical treatments.
The Benhaffafs were heartened to hear that Indian conjoined twin girls, Sita and Gita, were successfully separated by a surgical team in New Delhi on Monday.
The girls -- who are 18 months old and were joined at the hip -- are now making a good recovery from the surgery which was complicated by the fact Sita and Gita shared genital and reproductive organs.
The Benhaffaf boys are joined at the chest, but do not share any major organs. That will dramatically ease the task of surgeons, although the operation is still exceptionally delicate.
Conjoined or 'Siamese Twins' are extremely rare and only occur on average once in every 250,000 births.
Hassan and Hussein are the first conjoined twins born to an Irish mother since 2005.