12-Year-Old Joshua Haileyesus In Critical Condition After Trying ‘Blackout Challenge’

Ethiopian community members will gather outside Children’s Hospital on Monday to pray for 12-year-old Joshua Haileyesus.

Video Transcript

JIM BENEMANN: [INAUDIBLE] a warning tonight from a family in Aurora preparing to say goodbye to their 12-year-old son. They think he got caught up in some sort of a choking or passing out challenge a week ago. He is on life support tonight. Doctors have told the family he's not likely to make it. Tragic story. Our Shawn Chitnis at Children's Hospital. Shawn, the boy's father really wants families to know about this danger.

SHAWN CHITNIS: Well, Jim, he's really concerned about the potential for there to be encouraging challenges online and on social media for kids to choke themselves. Now, it's unclear if that was the case here. In fact, we looked online, and we couldn't find any of those posts. There are actually warnings on some social media platforms. But regardless of what encouraged him, this family just wants to make sure they can help other families and prevent it from happening to one of their loved ones.

Joshua Haileyesus is like many 12-year-old boys. He loves soccer and video games. But he stood out, even with a twin brother, thanks to his passion for the Army.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: He's a fighter. He's-- I can see him fighting. I'm praying for him every day.

SHAWN CHITNIS: He also was showing signs early on he might make a great church pastor.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: It's just heartbreaking to see him laying on the bed.

SHAWN CHITNIS: But last week, his brother found him unconscious in the bathroom. The family thinks he was trying to choke himself with a shoelace, possibly a challenge to see how long he could hold his breath.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: He told me the bad news, that he's not gonna survive, he's not gonna make it. And I just couldn't think of it. I couldn't imagine.

SHAWN CHITNIS: Doctors have told the family Joshua is brain-dead and that they need to prepare to say goodbye.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: I was begging them on the floor, pleading, to see if they can give me some time-- just don't give up on him, don't give up on him.

SHAWN CHITNIS: His dad says that a few days before, Joshua bragged to his brother he was able to hold his breath for a minute.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: I'm paying the price right now. I'm going, living the life, and I'd hate other parents to go through this.

SHAWN CHITNIS: So the family hopes their story will inspire others to talk about any potential games out there that could seriously hurt another child.

HAILEYESUS ZERYIHUN: If I just give up on him, I feel like I'm just walking away from my son.

SHAWN CHITNIS: So tonight, there will be a gathering for the community to show their support for the family, pray for them. They're gonna meet outside, socially-distanced, here at Children's Hospital. That's, again, at 6:00 o'clock. And so far, we've already seen a huge amount of support from this community, more than $130,000 being raised on a GoFundMe account for the family. Reporting live in Aurora, Shawn Chitnis covering Colorado first.