Corinne Hutton: How I survived the loss of my hands and feet

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Meet Corinne. She’s a fighter. Two years ago she lost her hands and feet. But that didn’t stop her climbing mountains, flying a plane or setting up a charity.

It’s around one pm and it’s just a normal day for single mum Corinne Hutton. She bumbles around her beautiful house, which is nestled in the hills of Lochwinnoch, talking ten-to-the-dozen.

“Oh, don’t mind the kids, they’re just off out,” she says, shooing them out of the door.

“Oh, don’t mind the mess,” she adds, ”I’ve just got back from Ireland where I was doing a talk; sometimes it’s hard to find the time to clean… anyway, would you like a coffee?” she asks, using her arms to open the sugar jar, looking out of the window into a vast sea of Scottish verdure.

Just two years ago, Corinne’s life was very different. She had a signage business that, by her own admission, was very stressful. “I just got on with it, didn’t think about it.’ Back then, she also possessed two hands and two feet.

Corinne says her hectic work and family life in 2013 led her to become ill and she caught a cough that soon morphed into pneumonia. While in the hospital she got a virus and her limbs turned septic: “My hands started to go blue, then black. There was nothing fleshy about them anymore.”

Now looking down at the end of her arms, she says: “I get around, you know. I’d rather do everything myself,” as if talking about something far more quotidian than running a large home as a quadriplegic single mother without a cleaner or a nanny.

“I’d rather live normally, I don’t want a house full of adaptations.”

The first thing I notice about 45-year-old Corinne is her fizziness, her infectious energy. As she whizzes around the house, she leaves a trail of laughter and self-effacing anecdotes.

“I try not to take myself too seriously,” she says, “I’ve heard all the innuendoes – ‘Can I give you a hand? Would you like a leg up?’” she smiles, a tad poignantly – for a second – and then whatever I saw is gone in the moment. You see, Corrine lives for positivity.

“My motivation now, apart from trying to be a mum [to six-year-old son Rory], is I feel I have two choices in the way that I handle life now: I could stay at home and not do much but I’m certain that would involve negative thoughts and perhaps depression.

“However, if I do something I didn’t expect to do it makes me feel positive and alive. There’s a reason I keep busy.”

But Corinne’s version of ‘busyness’ is no humdrum busyness. What she really means is that she has been busy climbing mountains – Ben Nevis, to be precise – and learning to fly, as well as setting up a charity to help others who have lost limbs.

“It would be easy to sit and think ‘why me?’ but I am glad it was me and not someone who couldn’t cope with it. Maybe there is a reason for these things?” she wonders. “To be able to say that my new life is all positive is quite a big deal to me.”

Corinne spends much of her time these days working on her charity Finding Your Feet. The organisation offers support and guidance to those who have suffered life-changing physical trauma. Often Corinne herself will go and visit the patients in hospital. “They see me and think ‘she dresses normally, she walks normally – maybe I’ll be ok’.”

Corinne shies away when asked whether she thinks she is a role model for others who have faced adversity: “That sounds bigheaded,” she says, “but people have said I give them hope because I am so independent.

“I fool most people now, my walk isn’t perfect but I pull it off. People don’t know that have an issue – when I was doing Ben Nevis my dad made me pull up my trousers and show people my metal legs.”

Face value

The other thing about Corinne is that she’s beautiful – it shines from both out and in. I ask her whether it’s difficult for her to do her make up these days, so she gets out her cosmetics bag and does a quick demonstration.

Corinne picks up her slim arms and rolls the mascara tube effortlessly between them.

“Part of my problem in the beginning was that I dropped everything and I was in a wheelchair, so if I dropped it lost it. If you’ve not got feet you can’t balance, if you’ve not got feet you’ll fall off the chair.

“It’s hard to do make-up but it gets easier every time, it’s not any different to learning like before – you’ve just got to relearn it all.”

Corinne may have lost her limbs but she’s no less of a girl. She points to her legs: “These ones don’t look real – I will show you my real ones which are covered in freckles and wrinkles. They’re brilliant,” she says. “Most girls have a shoe collection but I have a leg collection.

“I change my legs according to my outfit. I don’t think I’m particularly vain but for me to go out with the girls wearing trainers doesn’t feel right.”

The next chapter

Life has been full of change and obstacles for Corinne, but what’s coming up next could be one of the biggest moments of her life. She is set to become the recipient of the UK’s first double hand transplant.

“I’ve been waiting 11 months and it could be any day now. I had a lot of psychological testing to make sure that they felt I could cope with this decision. Because it will be very visual and every day I will see someone else’s hands – like when I’m in the shower, that’s obviously quite personal and intimate.”

She adds: “I used to exercise to lose a pound or two, but now I exercise under doctor’s orders to keep upright and keep my arms strong for my new hands.

“I’m very grateful to think that somebody would have to die so that I could get a pair of hands. I just desperately want to be able to do things that I can’t do at the moment.”

Considering that Corinne has already achieved more than many able-bodied people have done in their entire lifetimes, it’s a wonder what she will achieve next.

“It has only changed me slightly,” she says, “I was always stubborn, I was always ambitious, I was always determined. I’d always liked to do things that made me feel alive.”

If you’d like to donate to Find Your Feet, text the code FEET15 and the amount you’d like to donate (eg FEET15 £10) to 70070.

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  • Johnny Marilyn Lindsay

    woke up with a painful hangnail…really hurt..till I read about Corinne….she is my inspiration and hero……