Hundreds of friends and family gathered together on Saturday, Sept. 8, to celebrate the life of Hannah Rinehart, .
Her younger brother, Michael, shared how she used to make him brownies and give him rides in her car when he was younger. When she was suffering from cancer, Michael was the one who donated his own bone marrow, giving her seven more years to live.
--------There will be a fundraiser at Texas Roadhouse tomorrow. Tell your server that you found out about the fundraiser on Patch, and they will donate 10% of the cost of your dinner. Money will be used to cover medical and funeral expenses.
Hannah and her husband Mark 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.
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.
As weeks passed, Hannah's condition began to deteriorate. She had fluid build-up in her lungs that would not clear up, and her heart was having a tough time staying strong. Doctors told the family on Tuesday that Hannah's body was "very, very tired."
"She is celebrating," Mark wrote on a Facebook page in her honor, "and I am thankful for God allowing me to have the privilege of being her husband while she was here on this Earth. Family was present, and when Hannah was ready to go, she left quickly."
Her father, Doug Johnson, expressed thanks for the prayers of old and new friends worldwide.
"Many of you knew Hannah well," he wrote on Facebook, "and some of you only by the posts we have tried to put up to keep folks informed. Regardless…Thank You.
"We will grieve. But we have been doing that for over nine weeks... She loved people and she loved living. I will always be grateful that the Lord brought Mark Rinehart into her life. They were so complete. She adored her nieces and nephews. She loved her brothers and sister-in-laws. She loved and was grateful for her Mom who was always there for her.
"I will miss Hannah terribly. You are not supposed to follow your children into eternity. We find solace in the knowledge that today she has new hands and new feet."
(Editor's note: Snellville Patch was invited to Hannah's funeral. Use of pictures was approved by family.)