Veazie fitness class raises funds for choking game awareness

Posted April 14, 2010, at 10:42 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 30, 2011, at 12:02 p.m.

VEAZIE, Maine — As they danced and exercised the evening away, more than 50 adults and teens from Veazie also were helping to raise funds and awareness of a troubling trend among teens and preteens around the country.

Known by many names, including the choking game, black hole, space monkeys, hangman, flatliner and purple haze, the potentially deadly practice involves stopping the blood flow to the brain by applying pressure to the carotid arteries in the neck to the brink of passing out. The pressure then is released to produce a brief euphoric rush.

What too few youths know, however, is that the practice deprives the brain of oxygen, which kills brain cells and can lead to short-term memory loss, seizures, strokes, brain damage, heart attack or death.

The practice was cited as the cause of 18-year-old Alex Quimby’s death last November. The Orono High School graduate was found dead in a bedroom closet while visiting his father in Florida before starting classes at a Bangor community college.

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On Wednesday, Zumba instructor Skye Washington of Veazie offered a free class in the Latin-flavored dance fitness program as part of an effort to raise funds to help raise awareness of the dangerous practice.

A silent auction featuring contributed massage and manicure gift certificates, jewelry and skin care products also raised money for the cause.

Proceeds from the evening will be given to the Florida-based DB Foundation, so named because it exists to call attention to and stop dangerous behaviors such as the choking game.

Washington decided to raise money for the foundation because of the effect Quimby’s death had on her small hometown and because she’s a friend of the teen’s mother, Sherry Williams of Veazie. She also has a son who is 11, or “the age when kids start experimenting with things,” she said.

Washington, who plans to raise funds for other causes in the coming months, hoped to raise as much as $500 for the foundation, but did not expect a final tally until today.

According to a DB Foundation brochure, signs that teens and preteens may be engaging in the choking game include:

– Frequent headaches.

– Bruises or red marks on the neck.

– Bloodshot eyes.

– Changes in attitude.

– Disorientation or grogginess after being alone.

– Unusual demands for privacy.

– Curiosity about asphyxiation or knots.

Parents also may find ligatures, such as belts, ties and ropes, in strange knots or unusual places or notice wear marks on furniture such as beds or on closet rods.

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