IT was the moment Corinne Hutton had waited half her son’s life for, feeling Rory’s hand slip into hers.
Last week, the longest wait was over as Corinne, 49, who was left a quadruple amputee after pneumonia and septicaemia almost killed her in 2013, returned home from hospital after becoming Scotland’s first double hand transplant patient.
She was finally well enough to return to her Lochwinnoch home for an emotional reunion with 10-year-old son Rory.
Sitting curled up on her couch and looking out over the frost-covered Renfrewshire countryside, she told The Sunday Post about that magical family moment and how her new hands will change her life.
Corinne spent 20 days in Leeds General Infirmary after the marathon surgery on January 8 before being given the all-clear to travel back to Scotland.
“The living room was full of balloons and bunting bearing lovely messages, but it was Rory I wanted to see,” said Corinne.
“I’d have loved him to come down to Leeds, but it’s a nine-hour round trip. We talked on Face Time every night, but it wasn’t the same.
“I got in with my mum and dad 10 minutes before him and then he came home, sat down and just held my hands.
“It was brilliant, just beautiful. We had the biggest hug ever.
“Rory has almost known me for longer without hands, when you think he wouldn’t really have taken in much as a toddler. So, it was such a big, special moment.”
“Then,” Corinne smiled, “he tried a very good line on me. He said: ‘Mum, can I stay off school tomorrow? I haven’t seen you for three weeks and I just want to spend time with you and look after you.’
“It was very kind of him…but part of me knew he just wanted a day off school.
“My dad wanted to stay the night but my parents live just next door and Rory promised he’d phone if there was anything wrong.
“He cooried in beside me, with his head on my shoulder. It was just lovely. We almost didn’t want to go to sleep as we were talking.
“My hands need to be elevated and he had them on cushions, tucking me in and turning my light out. It was so sweet.”
The following morning a friend popped in with the ingredients for soup, Bolognese and a roll and sausage and Rory used new-found cooking skills to feed his mum and care for her for the day.
“I just missed her not being at home,” said Rory. “I loved having her back and seeing that she could already move her hands a lot. She got her hands amputated a month before my fourth birthday, so it’s really new to see them.”
And life has settled in to what will be Corinne’s routine for the next part of her lengthy recovery and rehabilitation.
The wooden floorboards of the old house, which was carefully converted when she lost her hands and feet, are ideal for the wheelchair she uses when she doesn’t have her legs on.
She can have carers four times a day but, keen to be as independent as possible, she has them come in just twice. They get her showered and dressed in the morning and ready for the day ahead.
“I had to remove Corinne Hutton’s hands almost six years ago. It was good to be able to help give her new ones.” – surgeon
With parents Doreen and Colin so close by, Corinne knows help is always moments away. Brother Davy and his wife Kate are also regular callers, with many other friends keen to lend a hand, too.
But Corinne is determined to do everything she can, while being mindful to care for her still- bandaged and splinted hands. “I’m like a wee old lady sitting here,” she says, a throw covering her arms to keep the temperature high.
“I just have to accept there are things I can’t do at the moment, like putting on my artificial legs.
“But there are already things I am doing and I know there will be so much more. I can brush my teeth and dress to an extent, although I can’t do up a bra.”
Corinne’s recovery is delighting doctors. Less than a month since the surgery, she can touch her middle finger to her thumb on one hand and her thumb to forefinger on the other.
She can wiggle her fingers at will and knows touching her pinkie will come as a result of the physio does at least twice a day.
“They didn’t expect that of me ever,” admits Corinne, her cat Panda nuzzling at her brightly-coloured Doc Martens.
“It’s down to the quality of their work, but I always knew they hoped for great things from me.
“I can see it in their faces. It started in Leeds with the physio pushing me and telling me to work within the pain barrier. If it got too sore I was to stop and not cause pain but tension was good.
“My physio here has told me it will be the best results they have ever had and they are very excited they are going to be doing it here.
“In fact, there’s a bit of banter between Glasgow and Leeds because it’s Glasgow who will see the results.
“I can see from the eye contact and the giggles between the doctors and nurse that they are as chuffed as I am.
“I’m just excited to see how things will improve day by day and explore what I can do with my new hands. I’ve got a lot of time to make up and I’m not going to waste a minute.”