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Woman will be first in UK to have double hand transplant surgery

A WOMAN who had her hands and feet amputated after suffering a severe infection is to become the first person in the UK to have a double hand transplant.

MAKING HISTORY: Corinne Hutton, who lost her hands to a severe infection, will have the pioneering transplant surgery in Leeds. Picture: Alasdair MacLeod
MAKING HISTORY: Corinne Hutton, who lost her hands to a severe infection, will have the pioneering transplant surgery in Leeds. Picture: Alasdair MacLeod

Corinne Hutton, from Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, lost her limbs last summer after contracting a Streptococcus A infection, which caused pneumonia and blood poisoning.

She will now undergo the surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, becoming only the second person in Britain to have a hand transplant and the first to have both hands replaced.

Professor Simon Kay, who will lead the surgical team, said: "I think the result will be exceptional.

"I think she will get very good function very quickly, and partly this is a tribute to the team in Glasgow who removed Corinne's hands in a way that would facilitate transplantation later."

Following the infection, Ms Hutton's chances of survival were estimated at just five per cent.

However, she was saved when an expert team travelled from Leicester to Scotland with a specialist machine to oxygenate her blood.

Ms Hutton said: "One of the consultants told me afterwards that, as they flew up, they were not expecting to take me.

"When they arrived my condition was worse, but it was the weekend and he was not answerable to anyone else, and as I was going to die anyway he had nothing to lose. So they decided to take me."

Unfortunately, her hands and feet were starved of oxygen due to the infection and the drugs needed to treat it, resulting in gangrene. Her feet were amputated above the ankle, but, crucially, doctors were able to save her wrists.

Ms Hutton said she was initially concerned her wrists would be cut away during the transplant - meaning if it failed she would be worse off,

"But they said the donor's hands would attach to my wrists and therefore if it fails I am no worse off," she said.

Skin from the donor's forearms will also be retained and used to cover up extensive scarring on Ms Hutton's arms, in an operation that will involve four surgical teams.

As well as tissue testing, Ms Hutton has also undergone extensive psychological testing ahead of the surgery to ensure she is able to cope with seeing a stranger's hands at the end of her arms.

The transplant team will try to find a good match, but her new hands will always look different.

"I have been told it is psychologically tough," she said. "I like to think I would be grateful to whoever had given me those hands."

Ms Hutton said she had spoken to Mark Cahill, the first person in the UK to have a hand transplant, and he agreed this was his outlook and how he managed to cope.

Mr Cahill, a former pub landlord from Halifax, had his right hand replaced in January last year after a severe attack of gout.

Professor Kay, who also carried out Mr Cahill's operation in Leeds, warned Ms Hutton's operation is going to be much more complex.

He said: "In Mark's case we had to replace three nerves, whereas in Corinne's case it will be more like 10, plus all the tendons need to be repaired individually. So from a technical point of view it is much more complex, but the concept is the same."

Ms Hutton's surgery is expected to take place this autumn and is being funded by the Scottish Government.

She is likely to have some ­sensation from her new hands straight away, but it will take 14 to 16 months for the transplants to settle down.

She will also have to take immuno-suppressants for the rest of her life, which carry some health risks.

She hopes her story will help to raise funds for the Finding Your Feet charity, which was originally set up to raise funds for her recovery, but now helps other people who have had limbs amputated.

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