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Decatur woman fighting strange bacteria

8:00 PM, Jul 29, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- Another case of an extraordinarily rare bacterial infection has led to the amputation of a Gwinnett native's hands and feet. It's not the flesh-eating bacteria that infected Amy Copeland, but it is another extremely rare bug found in an unusual place. Hannah Rinehart, a metro-Atlanta nurse, is fighting the infection at Northside Hospital. As first reported by the Gwinnett Daily Post, the two-time cancer survivor was taken there by her husband Mark on July 3rd.

The family was told by an infectious disease doctor the infection could have come from the saliva of certain mammals. They think it could have come from their dog. But like the bug that infected Copeland, the risk of infection for most people is next to impossible, something the Rineharts wanted to make clear.

Now, despite spending years fighting for her life, twice with cancer and now against bacteria, Mark Rinehart said his wife never let it affect her outlook.

"You see people around who have had a tough time and are bitter about it," Mark said. "She's not; she's always excited about living. She's a fighter. I married a fighter."

The amputations took place last Thursday, and Hannah isn't fully conscious yet. She was unconscious through the couple's second wedding anniversary on July 10th. Mark, a schoolteacher and national guardsman, is sleeping on a cot in the hospital.

"It's just another stage in our life. I let her know every day I'm crazy about her, and I know she's crazy about me," Mark said. "I know when she comes out of this, she's going to be smiling just as big as she was before."

Mark said he looks forward to talking to other people who have dealt with extreme bacterial infections. He was already visited by the husband of another woman who lost her hands and feet to an infection. Until then, he said he and his family will depend on the overwhelming support they've received so far.

"We are loved and supported by so many people I can't begin to send thank yous out, but I can keep trying," Mark said.

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