Three-time cancer survivor fighting rare bacterial infection

by: Kerry Kavanaugh Updated:


DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - A DeKalb County woman is fighting to survive a rare bacterial infection that forced doctors to amputate her hands and feet.

"I think that is the first question I asked God. 'Why, why?'" said friend Kerrie Touchstone.

Friends and family of 32-year-old Hannah Rinehart, of Decatur, said they are struggling to understand why the woman who has battled so much is being tested yet again.

Rinehart, a three-time cancer survivor, has been in Northside Hospital since early July. After several tests, doctors eventually discovered she was suffering from a rare bacterial infection.

"Her body had a severe reaction to it. And we weren't fighting the bacteria as much as we were her body's reaction to it," husband Mark Rinehart told Channel 2's Kerry Kavanaugh.

Rinehart said the bacteria is most commonly found in dog's saliva. It's called capnocytophaga. It's common bacterium, but it rarely has this type of effect on people. The couple has had a dog for about a year, but they can't pinpoint when Hannah would have been exposed.

Mark said infection first weakened Hannah's kidneys and lungs and her blood pressure was dangerously low. Septic shock set it and began attacking her fingers and toes.

"To not do anything right now would not be an act of faith, but an act of negligence," Mark said.

Doctors said amputating her hands and feet was the only option to save her life.

Mark signed the papers and Hannah underwent the surgery last Thursday. She remains in a sedated state in the hospital.

"She's a fighter," Touchstone said.

And Touchstone said Hannah has a huge support system watching and praying for her every day.

She said the surgery may have changed her physically, but nothing will change the person they all love.

"People want to draw close to her and and I know that that will not be touched by the loss of her limbs," said Touchstone.

Mark said his wife isn't out of the woods yet, but she is making good progress every day. He said they are faith-based people and are relying on their faith now to get them through.

He said he met his wife at their Gwinnett County church and have been together ever since. He said they dream of having a family and going on big family vacations for many years to come.