Benhaffaf twins set to walk next year

FORMER conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf could walk unaided for the first time as early as next year, after being fitted with a prosthetic limb each.

The 22-month-old toddlers from Cork are undergoing physiotherapy sessions to get accustomed to their artificial legs, which they wear for an hour every day.

It’s a remarkable development, given that the odds of the boys surviving surgery to separate them when they were just five months old were more than a million- to-one.

But the Irish-born prosthetist who assessed them last month was so impressed with their development, he told parents Angie and Azzedine Benhaffaf that they are on course to take their first steps before their third birthday in December next year.

Kevin Carroll, a world-renowned prosthetics expert based in Florida, teamed up with design experts from Sota Prosthetics in Cork to design the boys’ artificial limbs.

After making his initial assessment of the twins at their Carrigtwohill home, he said: “I found them truly remarkable. They have an extraordinary spirit, energy and drive about them — more than in anyone I’d ever assessed before.”

Despite being joined from the chest to the pelvis when they were born and given virtually no hope of survival, the twins’ progress has been remarkable. They are now able to climb up sofas, stairs and even kick a football to each other.

Carroll, originally from Tipperary, has even invited them over to his base in Orlando next year to swim with the famous dolphin, Winter, which he helped rehabilitate, a story that has been made into a recent Hollywood film.

However, before the twins’ make their much longed-for first steps and get to swim with Winter, Angie has revealed that there are still some major obstacles to overcome.

Hassan, who has just been assessed by experts at Crumlin Children’s Hospital, will require surgery on his spine to treat congenital scoliosis, a result of abnormally developed vertebrae. His brother, Hussein, has the less severe postural scoliosis, from which he is expected to recover fully by wearing a special orthotic undergarment.

But Angie, who also has two older daughters, is nothing but positive about the future. Recalling the moment they were fitted with their new legs, she said: “It was hugely emotional, something we once thought we would never see.

“It was a huge moment. The reason they got this far is because they do everything together and they spur each other on. They have an incredible bond and that is their secret.”

More in this section