At just 10-years-old Angie Benhaffaf’s sons, formerly conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, have already faced 50 surgeries. Due to their numerous health issues, the boys spent much of lockdown cocooning while other children were able to play outdoors.
Now, for the first time in almost six months, they will be returning back to their friends and teacher in Midleton Educate Together National School. Despite their struggles the boys are looking forward to facing the unknown together.
Angie said she has taken advice from the boys’ medical team who assured her they could go back to school. Nonetheless, she admits that this hasn’t stopped her worrying about the prospect of them attending school during a pandemic.
“I have taken the advice of the surgical team and doctors,” she said. “It’s a nerve-racking time for any parent, never mind those with vulnerable children. I have great trust in the school they go to.”
"When your kids are not in your own hands you depend on that trust. I'm lucky that they are in a fabulous school. While this is a worrying time we have to let some reality back in our lives. All we can do is hope for the best."
The mum-of-four said that the risk of infection has always been a huge concern in their household.
"The boys would have grown up with these precautions before there was any pandemic. As a family, we have always been around masks, gowns and sanitiser because there was no way we would have been able to risk infections. The boys have had so many surgeries and many of these would have been open surgeries."
The Carrigtwohill woman stressed that a return to any semblance of reality will be hugely beneficial for the boys.
"We've had to trust the advice of our doctors and explain to the boys that they will have to keep their distance from other children while in the playground."
Lockdown was a particularly heartbreaking time for Angie and her children.
"We couldn't distinguish the months from the weeks. They were seeing other children outside playing and asking why they couldn't do the same. It's hard to explain to two ten-year-olds about something you don't understand yourself. I had to explain to them that if they got sick mum and dad might not be able to go to hospital with them. I didn't know much about it then besides what we were seeing on the news, We had to keep the family together and make the most of that quality time together. It was something I had to do to keep them safe."
Angie is confident the boys will look after each other in school and stick by one another through thick and thin.
"Hassan has been through hell between morphine, pain, transfusions and hallucinations. He is so protective around Hussein because he knows what it's like. Last time Hussein went through surgery Hassan was reassuring him that mummy would be with him all the time and he would get lots of treats and DVD time. They really look out for each other."