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Central Minnesota woman dies four years after losing 4-year-old daughter to rare strain of E. coli

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PELICAN RAPIDS, Minn. — Four years ago, Karen Odens buried her precious 4-year-old daughter. Now, friends and family are mourning the death of Karen.

Odens, 39, is being described as someone “with a gentle smile who could melt the hearts of those around her.” She died Saturday, July 14, her obituary said.

Odens had been hospitalized 30 times in the last five years, and it all started when her 4-year old daughter Sophia contracted an aggressive form of E. coli bacteria and died one day after her birthday.

On Feb. 5, 2014, 4-year-old Sophia began to feel ill with flu-like symptoms. The following morning, Odens — along with her husband Eric — brought their daughter to a Detroit Lakes hospital after her symptoms went from bad to worse. Sophia would die from an E. coli bacteria infection only a few days later. Doctors ultimately could not determine where Sophia contracted the infection from.

For Odens, however, it was believed her illness was caused from time spent with Sophia in the hospital. Like her daughter Sophia, Odens’ family says it was never officially determined where Karen contracted the bacteria.

Upon contraction of the infection, Odens was initially hospitalized in 2014 for a total of 34 days, with 14 of those days in intensive care at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, S.D. Odens went through kidney dialysis and a plasma exchange while in the hospital.

Odens, who earned a doctorate in pharmacy from North Dakota State University in 2003, worked for over 10 years at Pelican Drug in Pelican Rapids as a pharmacist before taking a leave of absence due to health concerns, her obituary read.

A funeral for Odens will be held at 11 a.m. on July 21 at Trinity Lutheran in Detroit Lakes. A visitation will be held one hour prior to the funeral.

WDAY-TV reporter Kevin Wallevand contributed to this report
Ross Torgerson

Digital Reporter for Forum Communications. Native of Moorhead, Minn. Have a question or story idea? Email me at Follow me on Twitter @RossTorgerson