Behind the News: Edward Kiely, paediatric surgeon

The consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, who separated the conjoined twins Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, has been honoured in his home city at the inaugural Spirit of Cork awards

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 01:00

The surgeon Edward Kiely, of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, in London, was honoured in his native city last night at the inaugural Spirit of Cork awards.

A consultant neonatal and paediatric surgeon at the hospital since 1983, Kiely is perhaps best known in Ireland for having separated Hassan and Hussein Benhaffaf, the conjoined twins from Carrigtwohill, in 2010.

“I’ll be surrounded by people much more deserving of the honour than me,” he said before the black-tie dinner, for 250 guests, at the Imperial Hotel.

Kiely, who says the twins’ surgery rated about six out of 10 for difficulty, still sees Hassan and Hussein for ongoing procedures. He has operated on one or two sets of conjoined twins each year, and trained a generation of paediatric surgeons at University College London.

As medical technology has improved, he and his colleagues have been able to do more and more to help families in the same situation. “The advances in anaesthesia and intensive care allow us to separate conjoined twins now who wouldn’t have been kept alive in the past,” he says.

Kiely, who has also operated in Australia, India, Egypt, Tunisia, Singapore, Israel, Sweden, Mexico and the United States, is a world specialist in paediatric surgical oncology, specifically for the common childhood cancer neuroblastoma.

“Childhood cancers used to be a death sentence. Now, due to the advent of minimally invasive surgery and improvements in intensive care and medicines, we can support very sick children much better.”

He says that more than half of children now survive childhood cancer, compared with only about 15 per cent in the past.

Kiely is the youngest of five children, all of whom studied medicine at University College Cork. His eldest child is also a doctor, and his two younger children are at medical school in London.

The surgeon plans to retire later this year with his wife, Nicola – who is a doctor, too. “Home will still be in London, where our children are, but we already spend a lot of time in west Cork and will continue to do so,” he says.

A former captain of University College Cork and Lansdowne rugby teams, Kiely will be in Dublin this afternoon for the Leinster v Munster match, at the Aviva Stadium.

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