Monday 27 March 2017

'Little fighters won the battle of their lives'

Ralph Riegel in London

CONJOINED Irish twin boys, Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, are defying the medical odds as they continue to win hearts in the UK with their courageous fight for life.

The four-month-old twins -- who were separated from each other in a marathon 14-hour operation in London last Wednesday -- remain in a "sedated but stable condition" in the intensive care unit of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSCH).

The two Cork boys were born joined at the chest.

The separation of the boys on Wednesday was the second successful operation on conjoined twins in the world last week -- with Indian twin girls, Sita and Gita, separated on Monday.

GOSCH has warned that it will not issue daily updates on the boys' condition -- but a statement on their recovery is expected early next week.

The separation procedure itself was led by Cork-born Dr Edward Kiely and a team of 20 specialist doctors and nurses. Dr Kiely has been based at GOSCH since the mid-1980s and is now regarded as one of the world's leading experts on separating conjoined twins.

For the twins' parents, Angie and Azzedine, the surgery outcome was a dream come true. "The sun is shining for our two little fighters who have won the battle of their lives," the couple said.

"Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys. We thank God, we thank the surgeons and the gifted team at GOSCH and we thank from the bottom of our hearts the Irish nation and everyone who prayed for our beloved twins."

"We are so proud of the courage and strength that Hassan and Hussein have shown -- and they have both made the world a much better place with them in it," Angie and Azzedine added.

The plight of the Benhaffafs has caught the imagination of the public both in Ireland and in Britain over the past few weeks -- with the successful separation procedure earning headlines on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Sky TV.

ITV is now planning a special documentary on their flagship programme, Tonight, after agreeing an access deal with the family.

Back in their native Cork, City Hall is planning a special civic reception for the Benhaffafs to celebrate the twins' return to full health.

GOSCH has been deluged with messages of support, cards and prayers for Angie, Azzedine and their boys.

The Carrigtwohill family moved to London last month to be close to Hassan and Hussein for the duration of their recovery from the gruelling surgery. Poignantly, Angie insisted on holding the twins in her arms the entire evening before the surgery.

The Benhaffafs are now based in an accommodation complex off Queen Square in Bloomsbury -- just yards from the main entrance to GOSCH.

The couple have maintained a vigil at GOSCH during the past five days with friends and relatives who travelled over to London kindly helping to take care of their two older children, Malika, 4, and Iman, 2, allowing Angie and Azzedine to focus on the twins. GOSCH declined to comment on how long the twins were likely to remain in hospital -- but it is expected to be between two and four months.

It may now be August before the family can move back to Cork given the rehabilitation needs of the twins following their marathon surgery.

Sunday Independent

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