A Colorado family faces a heartbreaking reality after their 12-year-old son was deemed brain dead days after participating in a viral TikTok challenge.
Zeryihun Haileyesus noticed his son’s love for sports and the army, as well as his affinity for social media. Through the social media apps Joshua Haileyesus picked up new and interesting skills like cooking, playing a new instrument and acting.
In one instance, Zeryihun said Joshua bragged about his ability to hold his breath for long periods of time to another family member.
“He is very, very much a fighter,” Zeryihun told The Denver Channel. “I want others to see what I’m going through, learn for their children.”
On March 22, Joshua’s twin brother discovered him unconscious. Josh was participating in the Blackout Challenge, where participants attempt to choke themselves for dangerous periods of time. His family believes he used a shoe string to cut off his circulation, imitating the thousands of people who have participated in the online challenge.
“I can’t even describe the grief and the devastation,” said Hirut Yitayew, a family friend. “Nobody could ever imagine this would happen to a 12 year old.”
Doctors told the family that they should prepare their hearts and minds to say goodbye. Joshua’s supporters launched a GoFundMe to offset medical costs. To date they have raised $143,000, steps away from their $200,000 goal.
“Told me the bad news that he’s not going to survive, he’s not going to make it,” Zeryihun said in an interview with WTMV. “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.”
Supporters of the Haileyesus family participated held a prayer vigil outside of Children’s Hospital Colorado, hoping for an overdue miracle on Monday.
The rise of social media has invigorated the ways we communicate with one another, but it has presented a difficult and challenging reality, especially for youth and young adults. Dangerous dares like the outlet challenge, where participants stick a wire hanger in an electrical outlet, or the Benadryl challenge, where participants take excessive amounts of the allergy medication, require difficult conversations between parents and their children.
Now parents are not only concerned with their children being exposed to unsafe conditions outside of their reach, they have to worry about these influences being accessible right inside of their own homes, especially as the pandemic forces us to social distance and remain indoors.