This morning at 7:40 we had a segment with Levi Draher, a freshman in high school who almost died playing something known as the choking game. In October, Levi's mom walked into his room at boarding school and found him unconscious suspended from a nylon rapelling rope tied to his ceiling. He was rushed to the hospital where he remained in a coma for three days before regaining consciousness. Levi and his mom were on the show with police officer Scott Metheny to talk more about Levi's experience and also to raise awareness for this deadly game. WATCH VIDEO
I caught up with Levi, his mom and Officer Metheny in the greenroom after the segment. It was great to chat with Levi and see that he really is ok, and a pretty normal kid - we laughed at the clip of David Gregory back-up dancing to Karl Rove's rap at the Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner, and his big question for me was about his myspace page! At the same time, his injury was a very serious and life-changing event. Levi's mom explained that Levi was very angry when he woke up in the hospital, denying that he had a problem or that he was playing any game. Even now, after coming a long way in recovery, he still is unable to be completely alone in certain situations for risk of seizure and that frustrates him as well.
Officer Metheny talked to me more about the outreach and wanting to raise awareness in school systems throughout the country so that parents can be educated about this game. While often schools initially may not want to cover this topic in assembly for fear of "planting the seed" in kids' minds, Scott makes the point that the majority of kids know about this game, and if they don't, chances are they will hear about it from their friends. He said to me, "Parents would never send a kid off to school to take a test in a subject they've never studied, because they know the kid would fail. So kids are going to be tested by their friends, do we want them to go into those situations completely unprepared?" He drew a parallel to drug problems in teens - schools want to say, "We don't have a drug problem!" but Officer Metheny explains that every school has a drug problem. Every school has eating disorder problems. These are issues that teens and pre-teens have been facing for years, and they are not going to go away just by pretending they don't exist.
I could not agree more with the idea of educating young adults on some of these severe topics - while I never knew about this particular choking game when I was a teenager, I do remember talking with my friends about everything from eating problems to cutting and a whole range in between. I asked Levi who he would usually turn to first with an emotional reaction - when he is pissed off or happy or sad - and he said he'd probably talk to people his own age. We need to make sure teenagers know what resources are available not only for themselves but for their friends who might turn to them for help.