My sister Sarah will be on Dr. Phil this coming Tuesday about how her son, Gabriel, died playing "the choking game". I have not shared this tragedy with those who read the list before, but I hope you will tune in and watch this show. Dr. Phil said during the taping that almost 500 known cases of this kind of teen death happens each year in the USA - and probably many more. Please feel free to share this information with others and help prevent another tragedy.
Tuesday, September 27, 2005
CBS - check local listings (4:00pm in Los Angeles)
Shocking Teen Trends
It's a trend many kids call "the choking game" but the
consequence's could be deadly. Sarah's 13-year-old son (Gabe) made headlines when he died palying the game. How can she move past the guilt?
http://www.stilllovingmygabriel.com is the web site my sister started in memory of Gabriel and to help prevent other senseless deaths.
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THE DR. PHIL TAPING EXPERIENCE, September 1, 2005
This was a very emotional - and educational - taping to be
present for. My sister Emilie, my niece Jamie and a friend, my niece Liz (Gabe's sister), Sarah's in-laws Art and Shirley,
sister-in-law Terry, and Jason, Liz's boyfriend, were all
present. We were told to be there at 10:00am - and we were: Paramount Studios in West LA, very near Hollywood, on Melrose. Then we found out the taping didn't begin until 1:00pm! We were not allowed to take anything in with us, not even paper to write on (we could keep our purses but they checked them.) No cameras. Another taping started at 10:00am. Dr Phil does two a day, three or four days a week.
At noon we were taken into a kind of ready room where they had coffee for anyone who wanted it. One of the producers came out and welcomed us - and told us to use the bathroom now(!) because once taping began, no one could leave. He was very nice and warned us about sitting up straight and all.
We finally went into the studio which I would bet doesn't hold more than 100 people. A guy came out to take us through some warm-up exercises for about 15 minutes (I was remined of A KNIGHT'S TALE...); he gave away coupons for Dr Phil mugs and books (I think they could have afforded to give us all one but they went to those who yelled the loudest). On the other hand, everything was fun and dignified; there was nothing rude or crude about the way the show ran things.He also told us to cry if we felt like it, just go with it. (Dr. Phil gave handkerchiefs with his name embroidered on them to guest he interviews if they cry; a box of kleenex was near our seats, too.)
Taping began at 1:00 almost on the dot. Dr Phil came out a few moments ahead of time - it was his birthday. The audience sang "happy birthday' to him, but now I don't recall if it was before or after the taping. Anyway, he set the tone - he's a very sombre kind of guy, but then these are sober topics.
First they interviewed a girl who actually practices the
choking game. They had taped her and her mom before in their home. Now, on camera, the girl was mortified by the way she blew off how serious her behavior is. She and her friends told her mom about what they were doing because they thought she would like to do it too - and mom was horrified. She demanded her daughter stop. But she only stopped letting other kids choke her, she continued choking others til they passed out, twitched and buzzed because it was fun... I hope they leave this interview in the show - it was beyond belief. But this is what kids are doing, alone or with others. My nephew died doing it along, with a thin rope on May 6, 2005.
Then after 30 minutes or so, maybe 45, they brought Sarah out. As I mentioned before, Dr Phil honed in on her relationship with her son Sam, Gabe's twin. After Gabe's death she was driven to do something about the "game" and spent every available minute online or on the phone...
I initially thought Sarah was not too pleased about this tack,
but she later told me they had told her this was what Dr Phil
was going to do and she was glad he did; she did get to talk
with him ahead of time, too. (Some assistant had been very rude to my sister when she and Sam were waiting for the taping; it was unbelievably rude and insensitive - this is what Sarah had been upset about.)
Anyway, after ten minutes or so of a very sensitive interview
and conversation with my sister (Dr Phil did most of the
talking but I have to say it sounded good to me), they brought Sam out, accompanied by a child psychologist who had met with him for about an hour to assess whether or not he could handle being on air and talking about Gabe. At first, Sarah told us,they had decided not to permit Sam in the studio for the taping because they were going to play the 911 call he made (and it was chilling and heartbreaking and so sad), but in the end, they brought him in after the call was played I think. (Sarah said they were going to leave him alone in the green room and this upset her as well). Then Dr Phil asked Sam some questions.Phil and Sarah went to sit on the edge of the stage so they could look right at Sam, and Phil made Sam tell Sarah what he was feeling. We were all in tears throughout this whole thing. They played photos of Gabe's beautiful face in the background,too, just before pauses for commercial breaks and as intros after the breaks...
After Sarah's interview, they did another segment about a boy who had flunked 8th grade because of his 'addiction' to text messaging, instant messaging, etc.. His mother had taken the phone away for two months when she got the news he flunked. She hid the phone in her pillowcase at night but he would come and get it; then she took the battery and hid that in a drawer. I don't know if this segment will run with Sarah's... it was excellent because it shows how far kids will go with technology....
After the taping, Dr Phil came out and took some questions; we had to sign a release form before, so who knows when these might be used, or even if; they were excellent - e.g. can a teen get arrested if someone dies as a result of choking another kid during a game? Phil said yes - it's a felony. My sister, a little cynical, thought the three people who asked questions were plants; but even if they were, I thought they were good questions. He then said that they had made an exception for Gabe's story because it was urgent. Usually if there isa death involved they won't ask a family to come on the show for a year because they don't want to interfere with the grieving process. Sarah was very impressd by this - it was a testament to how hard she has been working to alert parents, teachers, etc.
By the way, they offered Sarah and Sam four days and three
nights at a spa in Arizona so that they could have some time to bond again - I am not sure when they are going. Dr. Phil
offered the kid who flunked 8th grade and his mother therapy sessions as long as they promised to go to them and do what the therapist suggested. The first girl and her mom? He didn't offer anything to them that we heard.
Dr. Phil did acknowledge us but never really looked at us,
Sarah's family, except one tiny sideways glance - we were in
the front right section, facing the stage. This is funny, but
because I was going to be in a religious habit, they decided I should not be in the front in case it might upset someone (one of the producers who called me ahead of time told me that). I was in the second row at the extreme right - they had our names on a chart and we were escorted there before the show began.
Afterwards, we all left; Sarah and Sam got to go into a lunch room and chat briefly with Dr Phil, the psychologist, and a ton of other big shots. They took my sister Emilie, niece Jamie, friend Nora and I back there too, becasue we had to leave right away, just to say good-bye to Sarah and Sam but led us out very quickly.
By the time we got around to the parking lot, Sarah and Sam were coming out of a side door.
By the way, they flew Sarah and Sam to LA, put them up at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood for three nights, with meals. (Emilie and I went to see them the night before the taping - the World Music Awards were being taped that night at the Kodak Theater nearby but there were parties going on and glitterati in the hotel - and traffic was a bear.)
Except for the lady who was rude to Sarah, and the remarks
about wearing a religious habit 'upsetting' people (who knows, it might ... but would they have said that to a Muslim woman? I suppose it was a hard call for them, but I think they should have done the seat assignments without saying why; the poducer was young and probably inexperienced), I thought it was a good event. Dr Phil
obviously has a well-oiled program and he gives practical, sound, insightful advice.
I almost forgot - I was very impressed by what Dr Phil said
after the taping and just before he walked off the stage. He
said that the reason he agreed to have his own show was to talk about the things in America no one else talks about, the hidden things that effect kids especially. "This, I believe," he said, "is the very best use we can make of television."
PS If you ever get tickets to any taping of an hour long show, know that it will take the whole day. For us, we were out of the house by 8:00am and on our way home about 3:00pm. Bring a snack in your purse instead of a camera... and water. For Dr. Phil, there's only one ladies room with three stalls. And about 95 out of 100 people there were female. Just letting you know the lines can be long... We also had to wait outside a long time in the sun, though there was a long row of benches. When some of asked to move out of the sun, they let us down to the entrance level and we were able to sit on a row of benches in the shade. Because I need handicapped parking, they let us come
in a side gate and park closer to the stage; others had to park in a garage and take a shuttle bus to the entrance.