Parents speak out after young son dies playing 'The Choking Game'

Parents speak out after child dies playing 'choking game'
Eleven-year-old Garrett accidentally died while playing "The Choking Game" last week (Source: Family)
Eleven-year-old Garrett accidentally died while playing "The Choking Game" last week (Source: Family)
Garrett with his parents and younger siblings (Source: Family)
Garrett with his parents and younger siblings (Source: Family)

INDIAN LAND, SC (WBTV) - The family of an 11-year-old boy is speaking out 24 hours after his funeral, warning parents about the deadly game that took his life.

"Somebody is not going to do this as a result of us talking," said Garrett Pope, Sr. "We won't know who that is, but as long as it happens - that one other person doesn't do this - that's what matters."

Eleven-year-old Garrett Pope, Jr, from Indian Land, died last week while playing "The Choking Game." This is an activity where children suffocate each other, or themselves, by various methods of strangulation. Some methods have involved using belts, ropes or bare hands.

RELATED: 11-year-old accidentally kills himself in 'The Choking Game'

"He didn't do it on purpose," said his dad. "He made a terrible mistake."

Garrett and Stacy Pope say their son had the belt around his neck, but not cinched. They assume he thought that meant it was a fail-safe. But the Lancaster County Coroner's Office says instead of falling backwards he fell forwards, accidentally killing himself.

"There's no blame here," Pope said. "No blame."

Statistics in 2005 show the so-called game, which has been around for decades, has caused 120 recorded injuries all over the world.

Kids have actually become addicted to this practice because of the temporary euphoria they experience.  This euphoric feeling comes twice; once when pressure is applied to their necks as blood carrying oxygen rapidly decreases, and again when the pressure is released, causing a "rush."

This rush only lasts for a few seconds, so many kids continue to repeat this process in the hopes of attaining greater sensations, not realizing the potential for serious brain damage or death.

"It cuts the blood flow to the brain directly just by pressure," said Dr. Debbie Greenhouse, a South Carolina pediatrician. "But also just by pressure by changing the pressure to the big blood vein through the neck. Once the blood flow to the brain is decreased, brain cells start to die. So the end result of that is if enough brain cells decrease for a long enough period of time the child can die."

Dr. Greenhouse said children as young as eight are playing this game all the way to high school. However, she said it's a little more prominent among middle schoolers.

RELATED: Pediatrician urges parents to be proactive in discussing The Choking Game with children

Garrett just started middle school in Indian Land. The week before his death, Garret Jr. had just started to play football. He wanted to go to Clemson. His parents said he was funny, smart, an amazing older brother and a great son.

They didn't know about this dangerous game, or that he was taking part. Tuesday they had to bury their oldest child.

"It's not a game," Stacy Pope said. "Things get coined with a term. 'Game' to an 11-year-old is fun. Safe. Like, a video game. A football game. They hear 'Choking Game' and think, 'Hey that's fun, let me try it."

Garrett's father has already spoken to the school principal to make sure teachers are aware of the game.

They've started a GoFundMe page under "Garrett Pope Memorial Fund" to raise money to buy books for the school. Garrett was an avid reader.

MOBILE USERS: Click here to see photos of 11-year-old Garrett Pope

"We know people want to help and we weren't sure how," Stacy said. "All the money we raise in there will go to the Indian Land Middle School and Indian Land Elementary School libraries. They'll stock the places Garrett loved to go and read."

In two days, the fund has raised $14,000.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Garrett Pope Sr. is employed by Raycom Media, the parent company for WBTV. We express our heartfelt sympathies to his family.

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