Dying to Play: A WAFF 48 News Special Report

By Liz Hurley - bio | email

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - A new trend is silently killing teenagers and every parent needs to be aware of the dangers.

It's got many names: the pass-out game, space cowboy, the funky chicken, knock out, and the choking game.

The thing is, it is no game. It's a gamble and kids are dying to play. One father did not know anything about it until it was too late.

Michael Kelly proudly remembers his son, Jonathan, a young man he called his little buddy.

"He was 11. He was very innocent, very naive," said Kelly.

That innocence was taken away in 2005. Kelly blamed a game he said his son learned from older teens.

"They call it a way of getting high or having fun, but the hanging game is not a game. It is a deadly tool that is infiltrating all the teens right now," said Michael.

Infiltrating teens in the Tennessee Valley and across the country.

Kelly Brainerd also lost her son Jay in Tennessee to the "choking game." He died just weeks away from his 18th birthday.

"I cried everyday because I couldn't imagine him not being here anymore," said Brainerd.

This trend is highlighted in vignettes all over the internet. The how-to guide for teens show passing out and the seizures. While kids seem to know all about it, their parents do not.

"They will tie something around their neck and its cuts off blood supply to the brain and you have this passing out sensation and kids may stay unconscious for a few seconds, some stay unconscious for a few minutes," said Dr. Ann Payne Johnson, Family Medicine Physician.

Research suggests the game is played by people age six to 25, some kids in groups, others alone.

"We found our son hanging from the bathroom earlier that afternoon. He had been with some older teens and they had been experimenting with the hanging game and they weren't allowing him to participate. But he was a copy cat," said one parent who experienced the dangerous trend first hand.

Experts say there's nothing sexual about it. Nothing illegal. It's a free rush that is costing kids their life, or their cognitive abilities.

"He didn't have a clue what he was experimenting with and what the consequences would be," said Kelly about his son Jonathan.

Those consequences: Jonathan passed out, fell and broke his neck that September day nearly five years ago. There was no second chance.

"Of course, it's very devastating to the families. I've been there and lost an 11 year old son and it just trickles down into a lot of people's lives," said Kelly. "We are hoping that his life will save many others. I just don't want any other parent to experience what we had to experience."

That is why Kelly started an organization called Cross Road for Teens. Kelly said it is a way to talk with teens on their level, and to hopefully influence them to make the right choices.

"Teens can be anything they want to be. But if they encounter this stuff and it takes their life or destroys their life, they are never going to become anything," said Kelly.

Doctors say there are recognizable signs your teen is playing the choking game, including blood shot eyes, marks around the necks, being tired and disoriented after they have spent time alone.

Researchers with the centers for disease control say boys are more likely to die from the choking game than girls, and that most victims are between 11 and 16 years old.

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