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Choking game sparks another close-call

7:08 PM, Nov 17, 2010   |    comments
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  • Choking game steals life of 9-year-old
  • The girl says she and four of her friends went into the bathroom during lunch at Everitt Middle School on Monday and played the game.

    The girl survived and is now showing her bruised and bloodied face to make a point.

    "It's hard to know that I made a stupid decision and hurt myself," Gabrielle Abuzahra, an eighth grader, said.

    "Do not do this; it's very dangerous it could take your life," Gabrielle's mother, Crystal Virgil, said.

    "Just a couple of my friends have been doing it," Gabrielle explained.

    Gabrielle decided it was her turn to try the game, which makes you pass out because of a lack of blood flowing to the brain.

    "They just told me to take deep breaths and close my eyes and I did," Gabrielle told 9NEWS.

    Then her friends choked her.

    Gabrielle was told she'd wake up feeling tingly and in a dream-like state. Instead, her head smacked the floor, she was knocked-out, and there was blood everywhere.

    "She has seven stitches. They found on the CAT scan [that] she broker her sinus and lower eye socket, and she's very lucky that the bone didn't go up into the eye muscle," Virgil said.

    YouTube videos show kids playing the choking game, looking for a euphoric high by asphyxiating themselves.

    A while back, Virgil says she had warned Gabrielle not to play the game.

    Now a warning is being sent out from the district to parents, telling them about Monday's incident.

    "The choking game is a very scary thing because it's endangering kids and so we want parents to know we're in partnership with them to help kids be aware of how dangerous this is for them," Heather Beck, executive director of school management for the Jefferson County School District, said.

    Kids have been posting videos of the choking game online.

    One of Gabrielle's friends was recording the incident on her phone. That video has already been erased.

    "Please tell your kids they don't have to watch their children or bury their children, it's very serious, it's not a game, it's not a game," a tearful Virgil said.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the choking game has taken 82 lives over the past 15 years.

    "I'm very lucky that she's OK," Virgil said.

    Gabrielle's mom says two of her friends were given in-school suspensions; the other two were given out-of-school suspensions.

    Gabrielle will get similar punishment when she returns to school after she heals.

    A spokesperson for Wheat Ridge Police says they are investigating the incident and still have interviews to do, but charges are pending.

    This is the note sent home to Everitt Middle School students on Wednesday:

    Dear Parents/Guardians:

    This week we learned that some of our students have been engaging in a dangerous activity called "the Choking Game." The website defines this activity as "a dangerous oxygen-deprivation activity that is popular among school-aged teens and older children.

    The object of the 'game' is to stop blood flow to the brain until the player passes out." Young people have different names for this activity, and there are several variations. Nevertheless, the dangers involved are great and include the risk of seizure, memory loss, broken bones, concussions, brain damage, and death.

    It is important to note, this game is played voluntarily; participants choose to be choked. We have information that students from Everitt have made videos of each other engaging in this risky behavior and have posted them on such Internet sites as YouTube.

    Warning signs for parents may include unexplained marks on a child's throat, severe headaches and red eyes. Look also for items such as belts, leashes or ropes tied in strange knots and found in unusual locations.

    Please use this opportunity to talk to your child about how dangerous activities such as the Choking Game can be. Encourage your child to report any such activity to you, a school official or Safe2Tell, 877-542-SAFE, or Safe2Text.

    If you would like more information about this risky behavior and its potential dangers, please visit one of the following websites: and

    We take the safety of our students very seriously and will do everything we can to keep them safe at school. If you have questions or require additional information, please contact us at 303-982-1580.


    Steve Wiersma, principal
    Bethany Robinson, assistant principal















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