herald

Saturday 23 September 2017

Airport's happiest landing as little fighters come home

THE family of conjoined Irish twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf were today enjoying their first day on home ground with their little fighters.

Overjoyed parents Angie and Azzedine arrived at Cork airport with the boys and their older sisters Malika (4) and Iman (2) last night, just six weeks after their marathon separation surgery in London.

The twins are now expected to remain at Cork University Hospital (CUH) for a couple of days for routine tests before they are allowed to return to their Carrigtwohill home in East Cork.

Angie and Azzedine -- each carrying a twin -- stepped off the aeroplane at 2.20pm yesterday following the short flight from Stansted to a chorus of cheers from emotional relatives and supporters gathered outside the runway perimeter fence.

"Up Cork -- up the Rebels," Angie cheered as she spotted the assembled friends and media.

The family enthusiastically waved to supporters and posed briefly for a photograph with the Air Corps crew, Minister Martin and paramedics.

The twins and their parents were then whisked off to CUH by a Health Service Executive (HSE) ambulance complete with garda escort.

The twins arrived back at Cork Airport yesterday courtesy of a special Air Corps flight -- and were personally greeted on the runway by Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin.

The boys arrived home after they underwent 14-hour separation surgery at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital (GOSCH) on April 7 last under Irish-born surgeon Dr Edward Kiely.

The twins' aunt, Shirley O'Leary, stressed that the entire family had prayed for the day the boys would return home to Cork safe and well.

"It is unbelievable -- it is like winning the Lotto. That is what it feels like to us -- nothing will ever compare to these two boys coming home safe and well," she said.

"Never in a million years did I expect this. We actually had planned, myself and my husband, going over there [London] yesterday to spend a couple of days with them.

"When she [Angie] rang and said, 'There is no need, we are coming home', we were like, 'no way'. We thought they were going to be in the hospital for weeks and months to come.

"They [Angie and Azzedine] are absolutely walking on air -- they are so happy, so excited to be bringing the boys back home. This is where they belong, this is where we want them, back in Cork," she said.

Shirley -- who was sporting a 'Little Fighters' T-shirt complete with a picture of Hassan and Hussein -- was accompanied by her daughter, Sarah.

hnews@herald.ie

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