The first thing I think when I meet Corinne Hutton, in the car park of Amaretto, is that she looks incredibly fit. But then she has been doing some serious training. She is here at Bridge of Weir Networking Event to tell us about her charity and her latest fundraising challenge. This week, Corinne will attempt to scale Kilimanjaro – Africa’s highest mountain. What makes this more amazing is that she is a quadruple amputee.
How did she get here? This is her story…
When Corinne started to experience a persistent cough, being a busy, working, single mum, she ignored it and assumed it would get better with a bit of r&r. However there was a sunny weekend coming up and she wanted rid it, so went to her doctor for antibiotics. It got worse. Eventually, after being persuaded by her mum, she called NHS 24 for advice. They also seemed unconcerned but suggested she get it checked out at hospital. On the 8th of June 2013, when entering the lobby of the RAH in Paisley, Corinne collapsed. She remembers nothing more of the following two weeks.
Corinne had pneumonia and the Streptococcus virus was running rogue, which led to blood poisoning. Sepsis took hold of her body at an alarming rate of knots. Within two hours of collapsing at hospital, her organs were shutting down one-by-one. Her family were called. Her life was, in effect, slipping away. However, a last minute decision was made to get Corinne on an ECMO machine – a unit used to keep patients alive whose heart and lungs are seriously impaired. The closest one at that time was in Leicester.
A cavalry of doctors and nurses were flown up along with the ECMO machine. By the time they got there, Corrine had deteriorated badly. The consultant believed she was too far gone for treatment, but decided there was nothing to lose by giving it a go. She was plugged up to the ECMO and flown by air ambulance to Leicester. The bad blood was taken out, cooled, oxygenated, toxins removed and run back into her body. To everyone’s amazement and relief, her body responded.
What followed was three weeks of astounding progress. She became the wonder girl of the wards. She was taken off lifesaving machines; she learned to eat and breathe again and gained strength. However, her hands and feet were slowly turning black. In saving her vital organs, her extremities had been sidelined –the circulating blood did not get there in time. Despite her body fighting back ferociously and Corinne making a truly remarkable recovery, she was eventually told that both hands and both feet were to be amputated. It’s was a devastating blow. Dark days followed but her tight-knit family and friends were there to support her.
A significant milestone post surgery was having her brothers break her out of hospital to take her son to his first day of school. Corinne was able to feel like a mum again. This was the best medicine. A thought sparked, “Maybe I am allowed to be someone.”
Corinne tells us that she used to think of wealth as something that could be bought, like a sports car, new house or a swanky kitchen. She no longer believes this. The support she received from friends and family – among them lawyers, doctors, psychologists, fitness experts, mavericks and motivators – is the support that kept her believing that “Yes, she could”. This, she tells us, is true wealth. She wanted to share her newfound wealth with others like her who had suffered unexpected trauma in their life. From here her charity ‘Finding Your Feet’ was born.
Isolation is a huge problem for many amputees. It has been proven that quality of life and even life expectancy is greatly reduced without social inclusion, with as many as 30% of vascular amputees not surviving to one year post amputation – a horrifying statistic. Finding Your Feet are key in addressing this issue. They run over 50 clubs per month in Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Leeds free of charge. These include swimming, skiing, climbing, gardening, crafting, pilates, fitness and their most popular ‘Ampu-teas’ session where the ‘Troopers’ meet up for a coffee and chat. They have an in-house counsellor who sees Troopers for 1:1 appointments as well as group Mindfulness sessions. There is also an online support forum which offers peer support for amputees around the UK and beyond.
Two or three weeks after her operations Corinne told her dad, “I’m not going to be disabled, Dad. Whatever I could do before, I’m gonna do again.” And boy has she done that… and so much more. She has set three world records including becoming the first female quadruple amputee in history to conquer Ben Nevis. She has learned to fly a single engine propeller plane, abseiled off a multi story building (with no hands) and was chosen to carry the Commonwealth Games baton. She was also the poster girl for the NHS organ donor campaign; she saw herself beamed onto buildings across London wearing nothing but body paint in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue. It is an arresting image.
None of this is done with any ego attached and you get the impression she doesn’t much like speaking about her achievements – in telling us about them she is funny, warm and self-deprecating. What shines through, however, is her burning desire to make a difference to others and to set the best example for her 7 year old son. Her brother Davy says of her, “It’s strange, when Corinne lost half her body, she became twice the person.”
In 2017, Corrine completed the London triathlon. This year, she has set her sights on Kilimanjaro. What she has achieved in five years is nothing short of incredible. When talking about Kili, she is visibly nervous. Corrine has no ankles, no Achilles heel that enables the foot to bend up and down, which is what a fully functioning pair of feet would do when climbing a mountain. Corinne is effectively trying to climb Kilimanjaro on stilts. The sores she sustained on Ben Nevis were bad. Her legs and stumps became incredibly painful. But with one simple phrase, she diffuses her own jitters. She looks at us and says, “Surely it’s better to try, right?” It’s so simple, so moving and so inspiring. I will store this moment and recall it whenever I begin to think, “What if I can’t?”
Corinne has scaled mountains real and metaphorical that many of us can only imagine. I think she is probably the most inspiring person I have ever met. Whatever happens on Kilimanjaro she has proven time and time again there are no limits after limb loss.
Please like and follow Finding Your Feet on facebook right now if you want to follow their progress. Discover how you can join in from home, or how to make a donation – please click here
*Download Corrine’s book: Finding Your Feet here. Proceeds from this book go to Finding Your Feet Charity