14-year-old Ashley was bright, bubbly, creative and confident. She made friends with people of all cliques and walks of life so when she asked to attend a sleepover at a friend’s house, Ashley’s mum, Lori, didn’t think twice.
The slumber party was just a five-minute walk down the road from Ashley’s house in Oregan, USA, and Ashley was excited to be invited and spend the night with the other four girls who were attending.
Lori had met the girl once and Ashley had strict instructions to ring her mum at 6pm to check-in.
Ashley said goodbye and we told her we loved her. Her step father said something like, ‘Be careful. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.’ And she was off walking to her friend’s house.
When 6:00 p.m. came, Ashley called as we had planned. Everything seemed to be fine and we had no worries.”
Lori and her husband went to bed as per normal. At 10:30pm, they woke up to a phone call from the police.
‘My body went numb’
The police informed Lori that her daughter was in a hospital 15 minutes away and that the doctors were working on her. Lor immediately rushed to the hospital, confused as to why her daughter was there. She was meant to be a five-minute walk away.
Lori was escorted into a small, closed-off room to the side of the ER. A doctor and a grief counselor came in and delivered the news no parent wants to ever hear.
Ashley had died.
I collapsed in shock and my body went numb. Nothing would ever be the same. The doctor said that Ashley had died from asphyxiation caused by inhaling helium. This only further confused me because I had never heard of helium being dangerous, let alone deadly.
In the midst of finding out she had lost her firstborn, Lori also started to piece together what had happened.
When the police showed up at the hospital, we were informed that Ashley had left our town with the teens from the slumber party.
This would be the beginning of a tragic night full of mistakes made by both adults and minors.”
While Ashley and her friends were meant to be sleeping over at a house just five minutes away, the mother of the girl become too ill to host the party. She asked her daughter-in-law to host the girls instead but failed to check in with the parents beforehand.
The daughter-in-law picked up the teens and drove to the house where Ashley was later found. As Lori expains on Love What Matters, the woman went to the liquor store to grab some drinks for the girls. This was the first time Lori had heard of her daughter drinking.
The party continued with more drinks at the house, followed by a group of 30-year-old men coming over.
‘My daughter died laughing’
At some point in the night, one of the men looked into a closet and pulled out a helium tank. He then starts inhaling off the tank and one by one, gets the teens to inhale from the tank as well.
Ashley is the last in the circle to try this and, according to her friends, Ashley was very hesitant to try it. She kept pulling her head away, but the man insisted it wouldn’t hurt her. ‘You’ll be fine. All of your friends did it!’ he reassured her.
Next, she gave in and inhaled the helium before roaring with laughter at how funny her voice sounded. In the midst of her laughter, she collapsed to the floor.
She never saw it coming. Nobody did. My daughter died doing the one thing I picture her doing most: laughing.”
The dangers of helium
Lori lost her daughter in 2012. Since then she’s started Helium Awareness to raise awareness of the dangers involved in inhaling helium.
As Lori writes,
Raising awareness about helium inhalation has given me strength and something positive to focus on in memory of my daughter Ashley.
I truly believe it’s important to find a way to honour and remember our loved ones in the most positive and productive ways possible. Each and everyone of our lives are important and we all have a purpose. I believe this is Ashley’s purpose.”
Helium displaces oxygen in your body when you inhale it. This means your body is ONLY getting helium gas. Anytime your body doesn’t get enough oxygen, you’re putting yourself at risk. The more helium you inhale, the longer your body is without crucial oxygen which can cause asphyxiation in just minutes.
Side effects of inhaling helium can include:
- Passing out
Despite the dangers, this is something children still do at parties often. In fact, just last month we shared a a story of an 8-year-old boy who died after inhaling helium from a party balloon.
Talk to your kids about the dangers of inhaling helium. For a cheap, voice-altering party trick and a few laughs, it really isn’t worth the risk.