CONJOINED twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf have taken their very first steps.
It was a moment their proud parents Angie and Azzedine had waited more than two-and-a-half years to witness.
Their 'Little Fighters' have begun to walk toward one another with the aid of parallel bars and are now well on their way to walking without supports.
The boys, who were born with just one leg each, were separated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London on April 7, 2010, following 14 hours of surgery.
They were finally fitted with prosthetic legs in October of last year and their parents have been working hard to support their rehabilitation.
The twins are already outdoing their friends in Carrigtwohill, Co Cork, in their push-pedal toy cars. And they are continuing to defy the odds.
Angie Benhaffaf yesterday told the Irish Independent about her joy at seeing her twins learn to walk.
"It was such a heart-warming sight to see the boys walking toward each other this week and urging each other on. I couldn't help but think back to the first time I saw that scan and realised they were joined and there I was watching them walk -- it was just one of the proudest moments of my life," she said.
Another milestone for Mrs Benhaffaf this week was when she signed her little boys up for school.
"I am going to send them to the Educate Together School in Midleton in 2015. They are very focused on treating children as individuals -- and my two certainly are individuals," she said.
One of the twins, Hassan, underwent spinal surgery last month at Crumlin Hospital and will have to undergo a procedure every six months until he is fully grown.
It was the first time he had been away from his brother Hussein, who was distraught in his absence.
Both twins suffer from a form of scoliosis, which produces a curvature of the spine. But Hassan's is a more debilitating congenital scoliosis.
"He is being treated by orthopaedic consultant Pat Kiely, who is a nephew of Dr Edward Kiely, who separated the boys, so that is very reassuring. But he has had two metal rods inserted in his back and these have to be adjusted as he grows. It came as a complete shock," said Mrs Benhaffaf.
The twins, nicknamed the 'Little Fighters', have been undergoing daily physiotherapy sessions with specialist machinery at home and with Enable Ireland.
The hope is that Hassan and Hussein will soon walk with crutches, then one crutch and, finally, there will be the much-longed-for moment they take their historic steps alone.
'Little Fighters, One Year On' will be available in all good bookstores from tomorrow priced at €10.