Parents use death of son during 'choking game' to warn others
OAKDALE, Pa. -
The family of a 12-year-old Oakdale boy who lost his life playing the "choking game" is hoping his story will help save lives.
Matt and Dana Ziemniak co-hosted an event Thursday afternoon in Oakdale to inform parents, school counselors, nurses, police officers and others about the dangers of the game and signs to look for to prevent children from playing it.
The national group Erik’s Cause will also be there.
Evan Ziemniak died playing the choking game last year. His death was initially ruled a suicide, but that didn't seem right to his parents.
"It didn't made sense to either of us. There were no signs at all. There was no note," said Matt Ziemniak, Evan's father. "We were just really confused at that point of 'Why?' when there were no clues or anything like that."
"His cat's birthday was coming up that Friday. We were going to order pizza. We were making plans," Dana Ziemniak, Evan's mother, said.
In the choking game, a person suffocates themselves and it supposed to stop just before losing consciousness. The act supposedly creates a feeling of euphoria.
Dana Ziemniak took her concerns to the Allegheny County medical examiner, speaking to him on a near weekly basis. Eventually after pressure from the parents and a closer examination by the medical examiner’s office, the designation was changed to accidental death.
"I wanted the truth to be known. I wanted everyone to know what really happened to him, especially because it could save another child from doing it," Dana Ziemniak said.
Officials from the Centers for Disease Control report that deaths from the choking game are hard to track, since may are ruled suicides. The most recent numbers for 2015 show that 61 children under 19 died from accidental strangulation.
The Ziemniaks said they shared Evan's story with one goal in mind: to save another child.
"At least alert parents so they can talk to their children about it. We didn't have that opportunity because we had no idea about this game until it was too late," Dana said.
"This is a dangerous thing and we don't want them to make the wrong decision like Evan did," Matt said.
For more information on how to talk to your children about the choking game, you can visit the Erik's Cause website.