CHILDREN who are forced to wait up to 18 months for spinal surgery are at risk of suffering a deterioration in their condition, leading surgeons have warned.
The 50 children, who attend Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin and Tallaght Hospital, need to be operated on for conditions such as curvature of the spine.
But a lack of surgeons and theatre time mean they are facing dangerous delays.
"The delay may cause increased deformity in the growing child, leading to more complex and difficult surgeries, increased blood transfusion requirements and longer recovery times," warned Pat Kiely, an orthopaedic surgeon.
He was speaking at the celebratory lunch for the charity Straight Ahead, which he co-founded. It has involved surgeons giving up their free time to operate on 26 children since 2011 at no cost to their parents.
Formerly conjoined twin Hassan Benhaffaf, who has already been operated on four times by the team, was among the children to benefit from the generosity of the doctors who gathered at Croke Park on Saturday.
He faces more spinal surgery every six months until he is well into his teens.
Brave Hassan, from Carrigtwohill in Cork – who was separated from his twin Hussein four years ago – undergoes the gruelling surgery to correct his spine.
His mother Angie told the Irish Independent: "Hassan's most recent surgery was just a month ago. He was diagnosed with scoliosis, which is congenital, and was on a hospital waiting list for some time. We were delighted he got on the Straight Ahead list and he had his first surgery two years ago.
"He still goes to Crumlin hospital for the surgeries and the Straight Ahead team come in on their day off to operate on him. Their generosity moves me and I do an annual ladies' lunch to raise funds for them every August in Cork.
"As a parent I want to help other children who are waiting. What they do is life-changing. Hussein also has scoliosis but it is being corrected by a brace."
The boys, who are now four years old and have one prosthetic leg each after their separation, have recently started pre-school and will begin primary school in September 2015.