TORONTO - Hannah Leasure's mother Robin Leasure said her daughter's autoimmune disorder hit her without warning.
"She performed in the choir concert (at Toronto High School)," said Robin. "She was perfect. We didn't see anything wrong with her until Dec. 21."
Hannah, whose father is David Leasure, had been having a good year at the school so far, the highlight being picking the odd-colored rose to become homecoming queen. Then Hannah began exhibiting flu-like symptoms and acting confused. Her parents were puzzled, said Robin.
MOTHER AND DAUGHTER — Robin Leasure of Toronto holds a photo of her daughter, Hannah Leasure, 2013 homecoming queen, who has been struck with a rare autoimmune disorder. The Leasures are sponsoring several fundraisers to help with Hannah’s care while she’s at Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh undergoing treatments.
The couple took their daughter to the doctor, and Hannah was diagnosed with a rare disease known as anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. The disease is so rare it wasn't even recognized and cataloged until 2007. Robin said the disease is causing "her own body to hurt her."
Robin, who is a nurse, knew something serious was wrong.
"She kept repeating sentences," said Robin. "That's when I knew it was something neurological. It hit her all at once.
"We've been to Children's Hospital every day since Christmas Eve," she continued. "We still have our Christmas tree up. We still have gifts for her to unwrap under the tree."
The disease is genetic in nature, and "They say 90 percent of those with the disease come out of it," Robin said. "There's no time frame for that."
With lost time at work and medical bills piling up, the Leasures and their friends have begun a series of fundraisers to help. The first is a spaghetti dinner set for 6 p.m. Jan. 24 at the Cornerstone Church, 423 Clark St. The cost is $5 per person, and the menu includes spaghetti, meatballs, salad and dessert. The event will include a Chinese auction with items donated by local business, said Robin. A prayer vigil for Hannah will follow from 7 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Also set is a fundraiser at Toronto Lanes bowling alley, 1119 N. Fifth St., on Jan. 25 following youth bowling. The cost is $35 per person. For information, call (740) 537-2980.
Beginning at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 16, Heavenly Bodies, 215 N. Fourth St., will host a two-hour Zumba class, with proceeds to benefit Hannah, she added.
Activities will included a 50/50 drawing, massages and tickets for drawings available. The exercise begins at 1:45 p.m., and tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For information, call (740) 632-6406.
There also will be a prayer vigil at the city gazebo commons beginning at 6 p.m. today sponsored by the Toronto High School musical department, said Robin.
The high school senate also is selling T-shirts with the slogan "Our Queen is a Fighter." For a shirt, visit the school or call (740) 537-2442.
Robin also said a fund in Hannah's name to accept donations has been established at the Toronto branch of Huntington Bank.
"Everything raised goes toward medical expenses, with anything remaining to go to Ronald McDonald House charities, which has helped (the family)," Robin said.