Wednesday 13 December 2017

Parents all smiles as separation op hailed a success

Ralph Riegel in London

IRISH conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf yesterday won the "battle of their lives" after a marathon 14-hour separation surgery was hailed a success.

The Cork twins' parents, Angie and Azzedine, wore beaming smiles as they took a 3pm stroll in the sunshine outside Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital, stopping to be hugged and congratulated by delighted parents of other children in the famous paediatric hospital.

The couple's two older children -- Malika (4) and Iman (2) -- proudly wore T-shirts dedicated to their brothers' brave fight.

Angie was so overcome with relief and happiness that she got down on bended knees on the pavement outside the hospital to say a prayer.

In a poignant moment, the couple were given an impromptu hug by one London mother whose child was being treated in Great Ormond Street for a serious respiratory complaint.

"Thank you -- we're so happy, so relieved," Angie emotionally told the woman.


The couple -- who declined to comment directly to the media -- stressed in a statement issued through the hospital that: "The sun is shining today for our two little fighters who have won the battle of their lives.

"Words cannot express the relief and love we feel for our two boys," the couple added.

"We thank God, we thank the surgeons and the gifted team at Great Ormond Street and we thank from the bottom of our hearts the Irish nation and everyone who prayed for our beloved twins."

Hassan and Hussein are now in a stable condition in the intensive-care unit where they are recovering from the gruelling operation.

"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 operation to separate the boys -- who were joined at the chest -- had been scheduled to last up to 20 hours but the 20-strong medical team were able to conclude the procedure in 14 hours.

The work of the surgeons was substantially aided by the fact the twins -- who hail from Carrigtwohill, Co Cork -- did not share any major organs.

The couple has maintained a vigil at the hospital with friends and relatives who travelled over to London to support them -- kindly taking care of their two older children to allow Angie and Azzedine focus on the twins.

Both Angie and Azzedine declined to comment to the media yesterday, but thanked well wishers and supporters for their kindness.

As the couple went for a walk in the sunshine, once the good news about Hassan and Hussein had been confirmed, mothers whose sick children were in the hospital approached the Cork couple for a kind word, a quick embrace or simply to hand over a message of support.

"Thank you -- we're so happy, so relieved," Angie told one mother who poignantly embraced her outside the hospital. The couple's only break from their vigil beside Hassan and Hussein was a quick stroll down Guilford Road with their daughters, Malika and Iman, for a coffee at Starbucks.


As they returned to the hospital, a smiling postman stepped forward to hand them a bundle of cards and support messages from all over Ireland.

The boys were born on December 2 last in University Hospital London and, over the past four months, have confounded surgeons with their tenacious grip on life.

Their care has been shared with Cork University Hospital.

The twins -- born prematurely -- were taken off a ventilator early, gained weight faster than expected and were deemed healthy and strong enough to undergo the separation procedure at the earliest possible date.

The Benhaffafs have now relocated from Carrigtwohill to London, where they are in temporary accommodation just metres from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

While the hospital declined to comment on the twins' recuperation period, it is expected that the Benhaffafs will have to remain in London for between two and four months.

The plight of the two Irish twins was headline news in the UK yesterday and that triggered a steady flow of cards, flowers, gifts and toys from well-wishers to the hospital.

The story of Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf will now feature in a special documentary by the flagship ITV show 'Tonight'.

ITV crews have been given access to the family and the hospital to show the incredible medical complexity of such separation procedures.

Irish Independent

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