Corinne Hutton is as determined as she is motivated. Having recently become the first female quadruple amputee to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, it is an achievement that would have seemed impossible just five years ago. Corinne has had a mesmerising journey and now works to help others; she spoke with Lorne Gillies.
“It all started with what I thought was the common cold,” coughs Corinne to clear her throat, before laughing. In 2013 Corinne was a healthy mother and businesswoman who was experiencing, what she believed to be, a bad cold.
It was on a Friday she finally decided to get antibiotics from her doctor, by Saturday afternoon Corinne was fighting for her life.
“On the Saturday night I wasn’t expectedto survive at all. My family were told to say their goodbyes and my brother was on a flight from Dubai with his black suit – that’s the reality of it,” explains Corinne in a matter of fact way.
“As it happenedI did survive it, but no more than that, it was not a quick recovery. I had just got through the night.”
Corinne was in fact not experiencing symptoms of a cold, but rather acute pneumonia and Strep A, which cumulated to septicaemia. Her organs were shutting down and Corinne went on to lose three weeks of her life in an induced coma.
Her journey was long and her survival, as her nurses and doctors proclaimed, was a miracle. The miracle came from a piece of technology called ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation), which oxygenated Corinne’s blood before pumping it through her body – in the same way a heart works.
“For the first six weeks they were looking after my organs and trying to get me off life support and get me to do things for myself, but my hands and feet had gone black,” Corinne adds.
“Basically, what the human body was doing was saving my vital organs and ignoring the extremities. I thought they were going to try and save things. I thought the scans were going to be to decide what was going to be saved. In a word: none.”
Although Corinne’s organs were functioning, her hands and feet had to be amputated. From here, Corinne had a new destination: regaining the independence and determination she once had.
FINDING HER FEET
Before Corinne fell ill, fundraising was an integral part of her life. Having completed the New York Marathon to climbing in the Himalayas, Corinne was an avid fan of pushing herself outside of her comfort zone, all whilst helping others.
“I’m quite pleased to think that I’m not that different now,” Corinne enthuses.
“I’m still the same person, and I still love to challenge myself. I still want to do some good and see the benefits going to somebody. That really hasn’t changed.
“Fundraising now is my way of life and my therapy, as well as my job, and my friends.”
It was a chance visit (or rather escaping from hospital) to a McDonald’s with her brother and nephew that spurred Corinne on her new mission of starting a charity.
Finding Your Feet was established to fill the void of support Corinne felt was missing during her time in hospital.
Whilst recovering, Corinne did not receive a visit from an amputee who had adapted to their new life.
However, Olivia Giles, quadruple amputee and founder of charity 500 miles, visited Corinne’s family but it was advised she didn’t visit directly.
Believing the visit would have spurred Corinne’s perseverance to recover and live her life to the fullest, Finding Your Feet, which helps support people with amputation and limb difference, has filled the void and helped Corinne personally.
“I felt so useless and worthless in hospital and [Finding Your Feet] has just changed everything,” she says. “And it is doing that for a lot of other people as well.”
Encouraging others to leave their home, even for a cup of tea and a chat, Finding Your Feet has helped improve the lives of many adapting to amputation by ensuring they don’t let their disability hold them back.
And Corinne is not one for sitting at home.
Having completed three world records, carried the torch in the Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to completing a triathlon, Corinne’s latest success is one unlike any other.
“Have you heard of that disease FOMO?” asks Corinne in reference to the feeling we’ve all had: fear of missing out. “Well, I’ve got it and I was watching people I’ve known for years, who are all good fun, sign up to this event that I’ve wanted to do for years.
“I happened to fly over Kilimanjaro and I thought, ‘is it better to try and fail, than not try?’”
With this in mind, Corinne prepared for the long trek ahead of her and the team.
“As the days went on people started to talk about getting to the top and it became more and more apparent that this would happen for me,” enthuses Corinne with a subtle hint of excitement evident in her voice. “I was absolutely delighted when we did it.”
Posting videos of her ascent, the conditions were clearly gruelling, tiresome and putting a lot of pressure on her body, but the glimmer of resilience shines through Corinne’s eyes.
Fundraising for Finding Your Feet, Corinne drives home that the charity is there to support people no matter where they are in their recovery.
Corinne encourages: “If there are people looking at me and thinking if she can do it why can’t I? Maybe people don’t want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or anything like it, maybe getting out of bed is a big enough mountain to climb. Whatever it is you want to be able to do: we will help you.”
For now, Corinne is on bed rest to recover from her expedition. Although, this might be the hardest part for Corinne who details she’s already itching to get up and go – albeit not onto another mountain for the foreseeable future. She’ll leave the next one to her friends (if FOMO doesn’t kick in).