E. coli O157 kills 4-year-old, leaves mother with health problems in Minn

Eric and Karen Odens’ little girl, Sophia, got sick with flu-like symptoms Feb. 5. The following morning, the Pelican Rapids, Minnesota, couple brought their daughter to the hospital in Detroit Lakes because the symptoms had gone from bad to worse.

On Feb. 11 — a day after her fourth birthday — Sophia died of E. coli bacteria infection.

060114.F.DL.E-COLI 060114.F.DL.E-COLI“They aren’t sure where it came from. They have some speculation, but nothing for sure,” said Dave Johnson, a friend who is organizing a benefit for the family.

While Karen was with her daughter at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D., she became sick with the same symptoms.

“They are speculating that she got it from Sophia,” Johnson said.

Karen was hospitalized for 34 days, with 14 of those days in intensive care in Sioux Falls. She went through kidney dialysis and plasma exchange while in the hospital.

Though she is home now, Karen’s battle isn’t over. She continues treatments and has been unable to return to work.

“There is permanent damage to her kidneys, and she will probably eventually need a kidney transplant,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, the family’s medical bills have grown to more than $1 million, and roughly 20 per cent of that is not covered by insurance.

From the hospital in Detroit Lakes, Sophia was transferred to Sanford Health in Fargo, and after two days of tests, doctors determined that she had E. Coli, strain O157:H7, which brings on hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, a life-threatening form of kidney failure that caused her kidneys to shut down.

That night, Feb. 7, she was airlifted to Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, where she had multiple surgeries and kidney dialysis.

She died four days later.

Sophia’s obituary describes her as “a very artistic little girl who loved to paint and draw pictures. She enjoyed playing My Little Ponies and spending lazy summer days down at the beach with mom.

“She loved to sing and dance and play dress up, especially with her doctor’s uniform, helping stuffed animals and her dog, Buddy, feel better.

“She was daddy’s little girl, who liked when he painted her nails and in return would have a game of floor hockey.”

After graduating from Detroit Lakes High School in 1997, Karen attended North Dakota State University for pharmacy. She graduated in 2003 and interned at Pelican Drug in Pelican Rapids. She continued to work there until her illness.

She and Eric have been married for seven years. Sophia was their only child.

Johnson said Karen is still battling her health issues, being hospitalized four times in the last month or so. He said she has tried to return to work twice, working only for a couple of hours, but it took such a toll on her that the next day she would need to be on oxygen.

The family has no idea if or when she’ll be able to return to work.

While Karen was sick, Eric stayed with her, and he now takes her to medical appointments. Johnson said the family income has obviously shifted greatly in the last several months, hence the benefit Johnson is organizing.

The benefit Friday includes a meal and bake sale at Faith Lutheran Church in Pelican Rapids, and later auctions, raffles and live music at the Pelican Supper Club.

“Our goal is to get 500 people to both events,” he said.

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About Douglas Powell

A former professor of food safety and the publisher of barfblog.com, Powell is passionate about food, has five daughters, and is an OK goaltender in pickup hockey. Download Doug’s CV here. Dr. Douglas Powell editor, barfblog.com retired professor, food safety 3/289 Annerley Rd Annerley, Queensland 4103 dpowell29@gmail.com 61478222221 I am based in Brisbane, Australia, 15 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time