IT was a dreich February morning, just before coronavirus struck, when Corinne Hutton ushered me in to her charity’s Paisley HQ with a warm smile and welcoming handshake.
“Ooh, your hands are cold, that’s good,” she said, adding quickly: “Not that you have cold hands – I mean, because I can feel it. Every day, there is a little more sensitivity.
“There is a long way to go – I still struggle with zips and tweezers, but feeling changes in temperature is great. I’m getting there.”
In January 2019, Corinne Hutton became the first Scottish person to receive a double hand transplant.
Since losing her hands and feet to sepsis seven years ago, when she was given just a five percent chance of survival, Corinne has been a powerhouse of fundraising and support, helping to raise awareness of the challenges facing amputees and inspiring people across Scotland and beyond.
She set up Finding Your Feet to help reduce the social isolation many feel as a result of amputation, and the charity has since raised more than £1.2m.
Corinne has set four world records, including becoming the first female quadruple amputee to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. Last year, she received an honorary doctorate from the Open University and launched a hard-hitting campaign to raise awareness of sepsis. She continues to mentor, motivate and inspire those who have experienced limb loss.
She added: “However, getting an award like this suggests I do everything myself which could not be further from the truth.
“I have a great team at Finding Your Feet who work much harder than me – I just get to do the fun stuff that receives publicity. Thank you for all your support and the big compliment of becoming a SWOTY.”
Evening Times Editor Callum Baird said: “Corinne’s courage in the face of everything life has thrown at her is formidable. She is remarkable, not only in terms of what she has achieved personally, but also because of her tireless fundraising and her hard work in developing a much-needed support network for amputees.
“We are extremely proud to have her as our 2019 Scotswoman of the Year.”
Anne Ledgerwood, general manager of St Enoch Centre and SWOTY judge, paid tribute to Corinne’s fellow finalists – homelessness activist Zakia Moulaoui, autism champion Vicki McCarthy, children’s fitness visionary Elaine Wyllie, suicide support charity founder Pauline Moriarty and world-leading gynaecologist Sarah Martins Da Silva.
“Congratulations to Corinne, an incredible winner, and to all the nominees for the 57th Scotswoman of the Year, which is being announced in very unusual circumstances,” said Anne. “As ever, judging was very difficult as every one of the finalists deserved this prestigious accolade.
“Corinne is an inspiration. Resilience – which has been so important over the past few months – is something our wonderful SWOTY has displayed in many ways and her achievements are truly humbling.”
Back in March, over tea and biscuits with the Finding Your Feet team, a group of fellow limb-loss survivors made it very clear the impact Corinne has had on them.
“Corinne has been on a journey, like the rest of us,” said Joan Brown, from Carntyne. The robust 74-year-old, who says she is “neither up nor down with it” following a lower leg amputation last year, added: “She is lovely, so helpful and she will always sit and chat with us. She is an inspiration. She shows you just what you can do with a bit of willpower and the right support around you.”
Dayna Paterson, from Saltcoats, had her leg amputated when she was five years old, after suffering from an aggressive form of cancer.
“Corinne is amazing – she has been there, done that, and she just blows us all away,” said the 27-year-old, who volunteers with the charity.
“She makes me want to do better, to achieve more. I struggled with confidence a lot when I was growing up and coming here has helped me deal with that. I don’t know what I would do without her.”
For Corinne, life since her transplant operation has been a further challenge. She suffered many infections and spent weeks in hospital as her body slowly recovered from the gruelling 12-hour surgery.
Her mum, Doreen, wishes her daughter would “slow down a little.”
“Corinne is always doing something for someone else,” she said. “This last year has been horrendous for her, but she never complains. I am very proud of her.”
Corinne is quick to share credit with the whole Finding Your Feet team, who work hard to provide a range of services.
“Finding Your Feet has become part of my life – it is my life, but it is not just about me anymore,” she explains.
“The team is amazing and I’m really proud of how hard they work to support everyone who needs us. I am very, very grateful to everyone who fundraises for us and I have met so many truly amazing people, who come along to our events and activities.
“It is hard, coming to terms with limb loss, and it takes a lot for some people just to come through our doors. They are all incredible.”
A poster on the wall at Finding Your Feet, one of many inspirational messages, artworks and photographs on display, could have been written with Corinne in mind.
“There are so many people out there who will tell you that you can’t,” it reads. “What you’ve got to do is turn around and say – watch me.”
Corinne adds: For me, mental health has always been about keeping busy, the difficulty comes when I am not doing things, when I’m left to sit and think about the enormity of what has happened.”
She smiles: “So I keep going. I just want to pack in as much as possible.”
Dr Corinne Hutton is the 2019 Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year.
Our awards dinner, held in association with St Enoch Centre and supported by Grand Central Hotel, Scottish Passenger Agents Association, Mackay & Inglis and Jones Whyte LLP, has been cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Instead, Corinne and Holly Gillibrand, our 2019 Young Scotswoman of the Year, will join their fellow finalists at next year’s celebration.
Corinne, who lives in Lochwinnoch with her son Rory, said: “I was really flattered to have been nominated, never mind awarded SWOTY, particularly after meeting the other nominees and knowing their achievements.