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Hannah Rinehart's Story of Survival as Her Husband Asks for Continued Prayer

Hannah Rinehart, victim of a rare bacteria, is recovering at Northside Hospital after a quadruple amputation. Her husband a teacher at South Gwinnett High School, is asking for prayers as his wife battles the infection.

Update July 31, 8:44 a.m.:  Hannah's fever returned last night and hit a high of 103.  As of 11pm, it was down to 100.  White blood cells are in the teens.  Family is uncertain what is causing it.    

"Please continue to pray for our family," read a post by husband Mark on their public Facebook page.  

, the wife of South Gwinnett math teacher Mark Rinehart. 

After a three-hour long surgery on Thursday, she is recovering at Northside Hospital.  

Mark and Hannah met at a church in Duluth.  They were both part of a Young Professionals class – a fancy name for singles, according to Rinehart – and noticed each other immediately.  The two didn’t date, however, until Hannah’s brother Daniel, a sailor in the U.S. Navy, met Mark and gave his sister the thumbs up. 

Mark, 27, had recently enlisted in the National Guard.

After a few Facebook conversations, the pair started to date.  They were married in 2010. 

The last weekend of June, Hannah and Mark were making some repairs on their deck and sprucing up their yard.  They were both doing a lot of heavy labor, so when Hannah began complaining of neck and back pain they chalked it up to sore muscles. 

“We were staining each and every spindle on our deck,” said Mark.  “It made sense that she was tired and in pain.”

Then, on July 1, Hannah came down with a 103 degree fever and the shakes.  Still, after a cold bath the fever broke and they went to bed. 

Hannah is a two-time cancer survivor, but has been in remission for seven years.  She was scheduled for a routine appointment at Northside Hospital the next day, and despite the fact that she felt awful, they kept her appointment. 

By the time they got to the hospital, Mark had to half-carry her inside. 

Timeline:

  • Last weekend of June – Hannah has general aches and pains
  • July 1 – 103 degree fever, chills
  • July 2, 2:30 – visit to oncologist
  • July 2, 5:30 – admitted to the Emergency Room for further testing
  • July 2,3 - admitted to ICU just after midnight
  • July 3 – doctors determine Hannah has a bacteria that has gotten into her bloodstream
  • July 3, noon – Hannah has a hard time breathing, doctors add ventilator and respirator.  She’s breathing short and fast.
  • July 3, 12:30 – Doctors ask for immediate family and explain gravity of the situation.  She is experiencing septic shock and blood is clotting irregularly
  • July 3, afternoon – A machine is keeping Hannah’s vital organs functioning.  She is put on vasoconstrictors, which keep the blood pressure high on the organs but take it away from the extremities, like the hands and feet.

No one thought she would pull through, but she did.  Despite the odds, Hannah pulled through that night, and is still fighting.

Rinehart attributes the successes they have seen to two things: first, he feels that they have the best medical staff possible in Atlanta.

“But I definitely attribute the gains we're making to prayers being offered to us in the community,” he said.

The cause of Hannah’s deterioration is still a little bit of a mystery.  Blood cultures were sent to the Mayo Clinic, where they were able to determine that she had a rare infection caused by a microbe that is in our environment all the time. 

The microbe (capnocytophga):

  • Does not live outside its natural environment
  • Does not get into the human blood stream
  • And if it does, the immune system gets it out fast

In Hannah’s case, that simply didn’t happen.  The microbe, which typically lives in the saliva of dogs, did get into her blood stream and caused massive organ failure. 

It was not the bacteria that caused the loss of her hands, but the medication that directed blood away from her extremities and toward her vital organs. 

As days went by, Rinehart saw his wife’s fingers go from white to dusky blue. 

“First, the first joints in her fingers got solid,” Rinehart recalled.  “Then the second knuckle went solid.”

He tried to massage her hands and move the joints to get the blood flowing, but the medication prevented it.  Her fingers and toes got darker and darker.

Eventually, the hand doctor came in and told them the necrotitis had extended to the muscle.  There was nothing they could do. 

“We were hopeful that we could save up to a certain amount,” Rinehart said.

They hoped to save a wrist or ankle, but eventually, Rinehart had to sign the papers to authorize amputations at the forearms and below the knee. 

The surgery took place this past Thursday, and Hannah is still sedated. 

“I’m not looking forward to telling her what happened,” said an emotional Rinehart. 

South Gwinnett High School, where Rinehart teaches, has been extremely supportive.  They are currently in their pre-planning sessions. 

His biggest need right now is simple:  prayer. 

“There’s times I’m doing great and have it held together,” he said.  “Then there’s times I have to take a moment and let loose emotion.  I’m not angry, just upset and grieved that it’s going to be tougher for Hannah than for other people.”

Still, he is a strong believer in the power of prayer. 

“I’m just grateful to anyone who is offering their prayers.  That means the world to me and Hannah,” Rinehart said.  

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