Woman awaiting UK’s first double hand transplant in Leeds reveals her quest to hold and touch once again

More than 200 miles from Leeds, Corinne Hutton knows at any moment she may be forced to rush to the city for a life-changing operation.

The 45-year-old charity worker, from Renfrewshire near Glasgow, is on the one-woman waiting list to have a UK first double hand transplant at Leeds General Infirmary.

In 2013 she had both hands and lower legs amputated after what was seemingly a bad cough turned into double acute pneumonia and life-threatening septicaemia.

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But having been through rehabilitation and pre-surgery preparation last year to be told the operation would take place as soon as a suitable donor became available, the mum-of-one has been waiting 14 months for the phone to ring.

Nevertheless Corinne, who now runs her own amputee support charity called Finding Your Feet, is well aware that for her to have a transplant a donor family will have to make the brave decision to help others.

“I could get a call at any time, I’ve had my bag packed for 14 months – we’ve had a few false alarms so I’m used to that now,” she said. “I just think it must be horrific for a family to have to decide that there and then, and I have so much sympathy for them and wouldn’t want to be in that situation.”

Corinne’s journey to this point has been a traumatic one. At her lowest point, Corinne’s family including her five-year-old son Rory gathered to say their last goodbyes before she was flown to Leicester for treatment seen as a last resort.

She underwent pioneering ECMO bypass treatment that oxygenated her blood and ultimately saved her life. She spent three months in hospital and had four amputations.

A complex recovery meant her learning to walk again and adjusting to life without her extremities while building a charity to help others.

Having taken on charity challenges like trekking the Great Wall of China, the Himalayas and running various marathons, she became intent on having a life-changing double hand transplant.

But she appreciates that in a donor situation, when a person passes away in circumstances that mean they are suitable for organ donation, families might have some reservations about donating a loved one’s hands.

“I just want to be able to have working hands. I want the emotional side of it and to touch and feel and hold hands – it’s quite important,” she added.

“And I always think that if I get hands, somebody else is getting their heart, lungs and liver. It must be so difficult in that situation with that one glimmer of a positive.”

The 15-hour procedure is to follow the UK’s first hand transplant by Professor Simon Kay and his microvascular surgical team at LGI in 2012. The recipient, Mark Cahill, from Halifax, is someone Corinne now counts as a friend.

Corinne’s charity is helping others

The idea to help others through Finding Your Feet came about while Corinne was still in hospital.

It aims to provide a ready-made support network to those who find themselves in need of help after limb loss or loss of limb function.

By providing emotional, practical and financial support or anything else required, the charity aims to help people regain their lives and rebuild themselves following trauma.

The charity has raised more than £200,000 to date. Visit findingyourfeet.net for details.