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Ailing Snellville woman continues struggle (UPDATE)

Special Photo Hannah Rinehart and her husband of two years, Mark, a math teacher at South Gwinnett High School are seen here. Doctors believe Hannah contracted a rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva, which resulted in the amputation of her hands and feet.

Special Photo Hannah Rinehart and her husband of two years, Mark, a math teacher at South Gwinnett High School are seen here. Doctors believe Hannah contracted a rare infection from bacteria commonly found in dog saliva, which resulted in the amputation of her hands and feet.

SNELLVILLE — Despite showing some signs of recovery Monday evening, the condition of a local woman who’s been battling a severe bacterial infection worsened Tuesday.

Hannah Rinehart, whose medical struggle resulted in the quadruple amputation of her limbs, had just made a “huge stride” on Monday according to her brother David Johnson.

“They took her off the (respiratory) oscillator and put her on a ventilator, and that was a huge improvement for her lungs,” Johnson said.

On Tuesday, however, she relapsed.

“They had to put her back on the oscillator,” said Johnson Tuesday evening, calling from Northside Hospital.

Johnson said that “her situation often changes so quickly...we have to be watchful.”

As the family continues to hope and pray for her recovery, they await a response from Gwinnett County Public Schools regarding husband Mark’s employment situation.

A South Gwinnett High School teacher, Mark’s co-workers have offered to help by donating their sick and vacation time so that he can take care of his wife.

Because a district policy won’t allow it, it’s become a point of contention for the family.

“While Mark’s at school teaching, the plan is to take her off the sedatives,” Johnson said. “She could be coming back to life basically, and it’s going to be really hard for him to be at school and not be there by her side as she takes in everything that’s happened to her.”

Johnson said that the family met last week with the Gwinnett County Public Schools human resources department, who gave them several options so that Mark could continue his employment.

According to Johnson, none of the options would allow his brother-in-law to devote a majority of time to his wife, while continuing to draw a full paycheck.

“The options will not fit his needs to be with Hannah,” he said. “He doesn’t want to lose his pay or his insurance, It’s very difficult right now.”

He added that the “biggest frustration” is that after a group of nearly 50 family supporters showed up at a board of education meeting Aug. 16, they have yet to hear “any word, good or bad, from the school district.”

“We’d just like to know where they stand on this,” he said.

District Spokesperson Sloan Roach said that district staff “have followed up with Mr. Rinehart regarding the options our chief human resources officer and he discussed last week. In regard to the district’s leave policy, no changes have been made at this time.”

Roach has said that while GCPS acknowledges it’s a “catastrophic situation,” allowing Mark’s co-workers to donate their sick leave is not an easy policy change.

“As a school district we have on average 550 people on leave at any given time,” Roach said. “Currently, we have 131 people on leave who are not receiving pay because they have used all of their available sick leave.”

Added Roach: “In looking at this request, decisions must be made that are fair and sustainable for all 22,000 GCPS employees. That said, we will continue to do all we can do to work with Mr. Rinehart during this difficult time.”

Johnson said that Mark used much of what remained of his sick days last week taking care of Hannah, but he’s “running out” of sick leave.

Hannah fell ill in late June after contracting a rare bacterial infection from dog saliva. By late July, the tissue in her hands and feet had deteriorated to the point that her extremities had to be amputated to save her life.

A patient care technician in DeKalb County, Hannah, 32, had successfully battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma for years, and had advocated for cancer research at Relay For Life events.