Parents of 'little fighters' plead for prayers in agonising wait
Crucial tests to decide if operation gets go-ahead
THE family of conjoined Irish twin boys, Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, are praying that final tests results within 48 hours will allow their marathon separation surgery to proceed as planned next week.
The twins, who were born last December, are scheduled to undergo a marathon 20-hour separation procedure in Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSCH) in London next Wednesday.
The surgery will be supervised by Irish-born consultant Edward Kiely.
"The surgical team here is the most experienced in Europe at assessing and, if necessary, separating conjoined twins," said Mr Kiely.
The boys' Cork-based parents, Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf, flew with the twins to London on March 21.
The Benhaffafs -- together with their daughters, Malika (4) and Iman (2) -- were flown from Cork Airport to an RAF base outside London by an Air Corps plane.
This was arranged by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.
The family may have to live in London for the next four months.
Over the past fortnight, the twins have undergone numerous tests in GOSCH in preparation for their separation procedure.
The boys are joined at the torso and do not share any major organs -- a factor that is a crucial boost for surgeons attempting the separation.
However, the surgery will only be sanctioned if doctors are satisfied with all the test results -- and the final results of those are due on Monday.
Angie Benhaffaf has pleaded with the Irish public to pray for her sons as the surgery looms closer.
"We would ask everyone to keep them in their thoughts and prayers. It will be our little fighters' final battle.
"The whole country has given us support and that has totally overwhelmed us," she said. The family has signed an exclusive media deal with the British television firm ITV, which is filming a special documentary on the family and the operation.
Because of that, the family will not comment to other media outlets.
The Benhaffafs are the focus of a massive fundraising campaign which has already raised an estimated €100,000.
"We have met some wonderful people along the way and we have been totally overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of people," Angie said previously.
"The whole country has given us support and we would ask that everyone would now keep them (the twins) in their thoughts and prayers," she added.
Conjoined or 'Siamese Twins' are extremely rare and only occur on average once in every 250,000 births.
One-third of conjoined twins are suitable for separation surgery -- and there is an 80pc success rate for the procedure. Hassan and Hussein are the first conjoined twins born to an Irish mother since 2005.
The first high-profile separation of Irish conjoined twins occurred in 1997 when Aoife and Niamh McDonnell from Castlebar underwent surgery. The operation on the twins took place in a Manchester hospital almost three months after their birth in April 1997.
A second high-profile separation was less successful when Eilish and Katie Holden from Kildare were operated on.
The twins -- who were born in 1998 -- were successfully separated but, tragically, Katie died shortly after the surgery was performed.