Mother of Choking Game Victim: "The Horror Just Stops You Cold" - NBC Southern California

Mother of Choking Game Victim: "The Horror Just Stops You Cold"

Judy Rogg's son was 12 years old when found him unresponsive, alone in their home with a rope around his neck.

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    Judy Rogg a grieving mother and social worker founded the educational program "Erik's Cause." It explains the dangers of the choking games and gives kids the tools to say no.

    (Published Thursday, May 18, 2017)

    The videos are disturbing. A young girl in pink pajamas leans on another, cutting off her air supply until the girl collapses.

    Link: Erik's Cause

    A young boy in a public gym quietly slumps down against a wall. A teenager, alone in her room, chokes herself until she begins to twitch and gasp.

    All of these are recent examples of videos posted online of kids playing "the choking game." The game goes by many names, including, the fainting game, pass out challenge, space monkey, California choke and maybe most appropriately, suffocation roulette.

    Choking Game Victim's Mother on Erik's Cause

    [LA] Choking Game Victim's Mother Talks About Erik's Cause
    Judy Rogg a grieving mother and social worker founded the educational program "Erik's Cause." It explains the dangers of the choking games and gives kids the tools to say no.
    (Published Friday, Jan. 30, 2015)

    The game has been around for generations, but with the proliferation of online videos, safety advocates worry there is more temptation than ever. Judy Rogg, a social worker, told NBC4 these videos encourage kids to dare others to "go further" with little regard for the risk involved.

    "Kids think it's fun," she said. "Kids don't realize that it's dangerous."

    The game cuts the oxygen to the brain, in the hopes of getting light headed, or a feeling of euphoria. But the high comes with great risks including broken bones, seizures and even death.

    There is a long list of things parents warn their children about, and Rogg said "the choking game" should be part of that conversation. It is a conversation Rogg wishes she had with her own son. In 2010 Erik was just 12 years old, when found him unresponsive, alone in their home, with a rope around his neck.

    "This is important, as important to talk about with your kids as drugs and alcohol and sex," said Rogg. "The horror just stops you cold."

    "I truly believe he did not intend to end his life. He had plans that evening, he had plans the next day, and he wasn’t going anywhere."

    Erik was rushed to the hospital. While there, Judy explains that detectives told her they believed her son died from "the choking game."

    It was the first time she had ever heard of it. Several days later, a classmate of Erik's came forward and told her Erik had learned the game at school on a Monday.

    He died one day later.

    Judy struggles with the loss every day. Her apartment celebrates his memory -- in one corner rests his skateboard. A collection of baseball bats are on a shelf and baby booties are tucked in the pocket of a handmade quilt.

    Rogg has now developed an awareness program called "Erik's Cause."

    "This is about saving other kids, that's Erik’s legacy, and that's the legacy that I want for my son right now," Rogg said.

    Rogg insists if Erik knew the dangers, he never would have played the game.

    "I would love to see this program in every health curriculum across the country."

    Right now, only one district has taken up her program. Jennifer Wood, Director of Secondary Education for the Iron County School District in Cedar City Utah, said the choking game is a real problem.

    "We've had four children die of this," Wood said.

    San Bernardino Child Welfare Coordinator Earl Smith said he believes there have been choking deaths in the San Bernardino area. He is one of the first school administrators to advocate for a program like "Erik's Cause."

    "As a teacher I actually heard students talking about it all of the time," Smith said. "We have to get the education out, not only to kids, but to parents."

    There's a long list of topics teenagers are already warned about, including drugs, alcohol and texting while driving. Still, 17-year-old Roman Valentine said schools need to include warnings against the fleeting high of the choking game because it can be more dangerous than drugs.

    "Weed isn't really good, but I mean, when do you really see deaths about that?"

    Rogg continues to travel the country, talking to health professionals and school districts, hoping more of them will adopt her program. She said Erik always wanted to be of service and she feels his presence as she now tries to help others.

    "He was really smart, and as one of his best friends said, 'Even smart strong kids can make dumb choices, with deadly consequences.'"

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