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Joshua Haileyesus was found unconscious in a bathroom on March 22

By Jason Duaine Hahn
March 30, 2021 08:38 PM
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Joshua Haileyesus
Credit: Go Fund Me

A boy is in critical condition after his parents believe he participated in a viral online challenge that encourages participants to choke themselves until they pass out.

On March 22, Joshua Haileyesus' twin brother found him unconscious on the bathroom floor of their Colorado home, according to a GoFundMe set up for the family.

The 12-year-old's parents believe he was taking part in a challenge that dares people to see how long they can hold their breath, and that he was "completely unaware of the risks involved."

The dangerous game — sometimes referred to as the "Choking Challenge," "Blackout Challenge," "Space Monkey" or "Pass-out Challenge" — is nothing new in the world of social media. As far back as 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attributed 82 youth deaths to a variation of the challenge.

"Joshua was discovered breathless on the bathroom floor by his twin brother who tried to resuscitate him until neighbors and the ambulance arrived," an update shared to the donation page, which has raised more than $140,000 as of Tuesday afternoon, read.

"He is currently being intubated and the doctors have said that his chance for survival is extremely unlikely," the page continued.

During an interview with KCNC, Joshua's father, Haileyesus Zeryihun, said doctors told him shortly after the incident that Joshua would not survive the ordeal.

"I couldn't take it there, I was on the floor, I was crying," he told the outlet. "It was just heartbreaking to see him, laying on the bed."

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The family said they hope to raise awareness about the online challenge to hopefully spare other parents from a similar experience.

"Our family is devastated beyond belief by Joshua's circumstance. We are saddened that someone who has a future as promising as Joshua is in such a critical and life-threatening situation at the moment," they wrote on GoFundMe. "We are also concerned for other families who like ourselves, may not be aware of the existence of the Blackout Challenge and others like it."

PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to provide avenues for our readers to pay it forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information about Causes — hubs that bring charities, individuals, donors and corporate partners together to help people in need — visit GoFundMe.

"We are desperate not only to bring Joshua home, but to ensure that nothing like this happens to anyone else," they said. "We urge the community to spend awareness about Joshua and the real risks involved in not having knowledge of what kinds of activities children are involved in."

In 2018, 11-year-old Carson Bodkins died after participating in the choking challenge, and a year later, teenager Mason Bogard of Indiana died after he attempted the dare.