Parents have a warning after son dies playing the "choking game"

Spencer Fung
Spencer Fung

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - As parents, you do everything to protect your children. A Lexington county couple thought they had all the bases covered with their son -- drugs, alcohol, cigarettes. You name it. They felt like they had warned him of all the risky behaviors.

But there was one thing that slipped through the cracks, and it changed their lives forever. Now they want you to know about something called "the good kids' drug."

"Everybody loves him -- loved him," said Jill Fung, correcting herself.
Jill and Paul Fung struggle with referring to their son, Spencer, in the past. It's been 10 weeks since Spencer died.
"Spencer, he really was -- is -- a joy," said Paul. "We did lots of things together as father and son growing up."
Spencer seemed to have "growing up" down to a tee with straight a's, lots of friends and a love for baseball.
He was a big part of this family of six. The first of four children, Spencer had been around the longest, which explains the big hole left in his parents hearts. "There's such a void with him not here," said Jill. "Knowing he's not coming home."
Spencer died at home. Jill was running errands when she got a phone call from Paul. "There was panic in his voice, and he said 'just come home,'" recounted Jill. "Just come home, honey. You'll make it. Come home."
"I pulled up into our street and I saw an ambulance in front of our house," Jill continued. "I parked really fast and ran over, saw that they were taking Spencer our on a stretcher. When I came in the house and asked my husband what happened, he said he hung himself."
"All these thoughts go through your head like why would he do that?" Jill asked.
The same question ran through Paul's mind, at home with all four kids at the time. "Parker, our 9-year-old, was the one who came down and when he came down he said 'Dad, Spencer was drooling all over himself and he had urinated himself,'" said Paul.
Paul raced to Spencer's room, frantically looking for his son with his three other children by his side. "It was a belt that was tied loosely around his neck and he was hanging in the closet. When I looked back into the closet, I saw Parker looking up at him, trying to take the tissue off his neck."
It was too late. Spencer was gone. But it was that tissue Spencer had placed between his neck and the belt that led investigators to think it was not suicide.
"When I spoke to the detective at the hospital, then things started adding up," said Jill. "A lot of times kids are playing the choking game and they put something there so it doesn't leave a mark."
Jill and Paul had never heard of the "choking game." it's all over YouTube, videos of teens -- mostly boys -- purposely choking their friends, blocking blood flow to their brains to achieve a brief high. It can cause brain damage, or when the child is alone, they can die like Spencer.
"We talked about drinking, drugs, smoking," said Jill. "This is one of those risky behaviors that you don't think about with an 11 year old."

The risky behavior is sometimes called "the good kids' drug," practiced by kids who may not use drugs but play this game to get a "safe high." there are very few warning signs like bloodshot eyes, headaches, marks around the neck or rope found around the house.

Jill and Paul say other than the occasional headache, nothing seemed wrong. "If you are playing this game with friends, I think a lot of friends think my friend will help me, can get me out," said Jill. "Then if kids get overconfident or if something goes wrong, they can die."
Prayers keep Spencer's family going. Boxes full of support sit in the corner's of the Fung home. The children keep mom and dad busy.

Jill and Paul pray, too. It's a prayer Jill hopes everyone hears. "If I had ever thought that my child was doing it or if I had seen something on the news or had talked to other parents who had lost a child this way, I would have talked to him about it," she said. It could have been avoided. If we can save one set of parents the grief that we're going through, it's worth it. It's worth sharing his story."

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