Community mourns loss of CCS graduate Bridgette Odens
Bridgette Odens, a 2017 graduate of Chase County Schools (CCS), died during the early morning hours last Friday in Lincoln.
A sophomore at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she was studying business and accounting.
According to her parents, Becky and Kyle Odens of Imperial, Bridgette had fallen on Feb. 22 from a stool in her apartment and landed on her counter in her “bottom and hip area.”
She was later admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Bryan West Medical Center in Lincoln.
While in the ICU, Bridgette was able to communicate with doctors, her parents and sister Courtney, a sophomore at CCS.
The doctors had to talk to her for surgery, Becky said.
She was able to mouth words around her ventilator tube that had been placed to help her breathe.
Bridgette was able to write at times, as well as text on her sister’s phone.
“They also had an alphabet on a piece of paper and she would tell us a word and then would tell us when it was the end of the word,” Becky said.
“She got frustrated because a lot of times we didn’t know what she was saying if she was just mouthing it to us but we felt she needed to rest and not get worked up.”
Bridgette’s death was caused by complications from the fall.
Compartment syndrome was probably the first thing that happened,” Becky said, “and then (the doctors) found out that she had strep in her system which caused a flesh-eating bacteria.”
Compartment syndrome is caused by pressure buildup from internal bleeding or swelling of tissues.
Surgery was performed on Feb. 26 to relieve that pressure, Becky said.
“Before she even went into surgery for that the doctor said they would do everything they could to save her leg and her life,” she added. “So it was that serious already on Tuesday.”
Bridgette struggled with her blood pressure and heart rate after that surgery.
“One would be low and the other one high or vice versa,” Becky said.
Bridgette was placed on medication to help regulate both her heart rate and blood pressure, but it also took the blood supply away from her outer extremities.
That, in turn, prompted another surgery to remove the right side of her bowel.
“When she came in, her kidney function was at I think 17 percent,” Becky said.
Her kidneys improved a little, but with the toxicity in her system, the doctors knew she would have to be placed on dialysis.
“At some point Thursday morning they needed to see what her leg was like,” Becky said.
Doctors informed the family that amputation of the leg would be necessary, she said.
“Originally they had said the hip, then they came back and said they had found viable tissue and were able to just go above her knee.”
After the amputation surgery, Bridgette was placed on an oscillator, a type of ventilator, to breathe for her so she could recover from the surgery.
They also placed her on dialysis at that point.
The doctors didn’t discover the strep until after the amputation surgery.
“They medically paralyzed her and we never got to talk to her after Thursday morning and that was very limited,” Becky said.
“Looking back, not that we weren’t doing the right thing, but I wish we could have talked to her more,” Becky said.
While on dialysis, Courtney spent a lot of time talking to her sister.
“They played music for her and it seemed to calm her heart rate,” Becky said. “It was fun music, but not loud.”
In the end her heart wasn’t strong enough, stopping again and again after the last surgery, until it finally gave out completely.
“We’ve done lots of remembering these last few days with family,” Becky said.
Bridgette’s family is thankful for all the prayers and good wishes they have received.
“The support has been amazing,” Kyle said.
“If prayers alone could have saved her, she would still be here,” Courtney added.
Becky said the love and support they received when they came home Friday was helpful.
“It’s difficult when you’re not at home and you’re going through something like this,” she said.
“We’re just still in shock and trying to wrap our heads around what’s going on.”
Friends, teachers remember
Bridgette left an impact on many who called her a friend.
“Thinking of words to summarize Bridgette is nearly impossible, but that is probably the best problem to have,” said CCS friend Jadin Bussell.
“What I loved most about her was her selfless heart,” said another high school friend, Molly Luhrs. “It gave her the ability to make people happy.”
Bridgette was living in an apartment in Lincoln with fellow CCS grad Kadyn Milner and two other roommates.
“I can speak for all of my roommates (Taylor Rosacker and Randi Allar) when I say that Bridgette was kind, caring, happy and beautiful,” Milner said. “We made some incredible memories and some just can’t be put into words.”
A number of teachers and coaches at CCS all noted her positive attitude.
More than one of them said it was hard to put their thoughts into a few sentences.
Jodie Schuller, her four-year high school volleyball coach who also taught her in elementary PE classes, said her smile brightened everyone’s day.
“Bridgette’s personality was stunning,” Schuller said.
“She was fun, positive, beautiful, kind, intelligent, caring and full of life.”
Schuller said Bridgette was great on the volleyball court, “full of energy, fundamentally skilled,” but what she noticed most was what a great person she was off the court, “treating everyone with respect, younger, older and same age, and was the friendliest person in the building.”
Randy Hayes, grade 6-12 vocal music director, worked with Bridgette as a three-year member of the 9th St. Singers show choir at CCS.
He said she was an integral part of the show choir.
“She was always on time for any event, and always prepared to perform. Although she never desired to step out as a soloist, her personality, her stage presence and smile were constantly evident. She was a model for others to see in stage presence and performance technique,” he said.
He said he’ll long remember that she always had a smile when entering his classroom.
Dan Lenners coached her in track, where she threw the shot and discus.
“I’ll always remember her attitude and commitment to throwing. She always wanted to improve and was very coachable,” he said.
Lenners also said he’ll remember how Bridgette was always encouraging her teammates at track meets and when the team had “throw-offs” at practice.
“She always wanted to be one of the top three (throwers), and was always encouraging the other throwers on the team during practices,” he said.
CCS Supt. Randy Klooz also released a statement following Bridgette’s death.
“We grieve for the loss of her passing so early in life. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family, friends, students, staff and community members impacted by this tragic event,” the statement read.
“We are grateful in knowing that the Chase County community will provide continued support, love and prayers for all that are grieving during this very difficult time.”
Funeral services for Bridgette will be today (Thursday) at 10:30 a.m. at Zion Lutheran Church in Imperial.
There are no classes scheduled Thursday at Chase County Schools.
A memorial has been established in Bridgette’s memory and online condolences may be left at liewerfuneralhome.com.