How to tell if your child is playing the choking game

Two teens playing the 'Choking Game'
Two teens playing the 'Choking Game'
Laurian Baaske, 13
Laurian Baaske, 13
Erik and jonelle Baaske, parents of Laurian
Erik and jonelle Baaske, parents of Laurian

The choking game or fainting game, some call it "the good kid's high," is a serious risk. It's killing teens and those even younger.

A couple from Beaufort County is telling their story in an attempt to educate other parents.

Jonelle Baaske and her husband, Erik, never knew what the choking game was until their 13-year-old daughter Laurian died last year playing the game. "It was just numbing to find her like that. We just didn't know what to think," said Jonelle Baaske.

Laurian wasn't a troubled child. She made good grades. She was friendly and happy. Already at 13 she had her sights set on the Savannah of College Art and Design, where she would one day train to become a designer.

She didn't fit the profile of a suicidal child. But Laurian's parents learned their daughter did fit the profile perfectly for a child who played the choking game - above average kids who don't want to mess up their futures by getting mixed up with drugs.

"They think because you can't get caught, there's nothing you can detect, identify. It's just as dangerous, just as deadly as doing drugs," said Dr. Eric Pearlman, medical director of the Children's Hospital at Memorial. "It's that losing oxygen and getting oxygen back is what gives you that high feeling. The problem is that in between time where the brain is dying."

Pearlman says it's not easy to spot a child who's taking part in this game, even for doctors. "Even if you specifically ask a question a teenager might be embarrassed to talk about it and so you might not get the history, but unless you specifically ask someone who's having repeated fainting you're not going to find out," said Pearlman.

But there are some not-so-obvious signs you can look for: frequent headaches, repeated episodes of fainting, difficulty sleeping, behavior changes and school performance changes.

The Baaskes say there are even more signs at home in which parents need to look. "Parents can find belts, sashes, scarfs, ropes tied in unusual locations, bed posts, closet rods, or simply just laying on the floor - things you wouldn't think would have a knot in them would," said Erik Baaske.

For the Baaskes, there wasn't time to look for signs. They believe the night Laurian died was the first time she's ever played the game. They only wish they knew then what they know now. "Don't be afraid to ask questions, don't be afraid to get involved because it is out there and it's killing our children," said Erik Baaske.

And there are plenty of cases where the children didn't die from the game, but became brain dead and there's life long affects, memory issues, fogginess in thinking over time so just because a child may survive the game doesn't mean they wont of a lasting impression from it.

In a lot of cases, their deaths are ruled as suicide.

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