E. coli kills Minnesota mother 4 years after disease took daughter

Published: Jul. 23, 2018 at 12:50 PM CDT
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Four years ago, 4-year-old Sophia Odens of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, got very sick with a strain of E. coli called O157, which is hard on the kidneys.

Sophia's mom, Karen Odens, caught it too. Both of them were hospitalized. Doctors couldn't save Sophia.

On July 14, Karen Odens died at age 39 from prolonged complications of an E. coli infection she contracted while providing extensive care in 2014 for her daughter.

"She was so small that she couldn't fight off this bacteria. And she died," said Karen's father, Ed Welke.

Welke said that before Sophia's death, the daughter and mother were inseparable -- dressing up in costumes and playing with Sophia's favorite toys, My Little Pony.

"Everything was wonderful until that E. coli hit," Welke said.

Besides her grief, and post-traumatic stress disorder that followed, Karen had damanged kidneys from the E. coli. Her body had been through a lot.

"She was born with congenital defects. She was a little person. She was quite small herself, so she had trouble herself fighting off this E. coli 157," Welke said.

For the past eight months, Karen had been undergoing kidney dialysis in Detroit Lakes three days a week.

Finally, her body could take no more, and the deadly bacteria claimed her life as well, leaving a family grieving another tragic death, and urging others to guard themselves against E. coli O157.

"I urge everybody to wash your fruits and vegetables. Don't trust anything. Because when you buy that from the grocery store, you have to protect yourself," Welke said.