Boy, 12, brain dead after trying Tiktok choking challenge, family says

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 10:51 PM MDT
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AURORA, Colo. (KCNC) - A 12-year-old boy from Colorado is in critical condition after reportedly trying the “Blackout Challenge” seen on TikTok that dares people to choke themselves until they lose consciousness.

Joshua Haileyesus, like many 12-year-old boys, loves soccer and video games, but he stood out, even with a twin brother, thanks to his passion for the Army. He also was showing signs early on he might make a great church pastor.

“He’s a fighter. I can see him fighting. I’m praying for him every day,” said Joshua’s father, Haileyesus Zeryihun. “It’s just heartbreaking to see him laying on the bed.”

Joshua’s twin brother found him unconscious in the bathroom March 22. The family thinks he was trying to choke himself with a shoelace, possibly as part of a challenge to see how long he could hold his breath.

Doctors have told the family Joshua is brain dead and that they need to prepare to say goodbye.

“Told me the bad news that he’s not going to survive, he’s not going to make it,” Zeryihun said. “I was begging them on the floor, pleading to see if they can give me some time, not to give up on him. If I just give up on him, I feel like I’m just walking away from my son.”

Joshua’s father says that a few days before he was found, Joshua bragged to his brother he was able to hold his breath for a minute. The family hopes their story will inspire others to talk about any potential games out there that could seriously hurt another child.

“I’m paying the price right now. I’m living the life, and I hate for other parents to go through this,” Zeryihun said.

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