He only came out of his bedroom to use the bathroom, to pick up some snacks in the kitchen, and to take a quick shower. Otherwise, 15-year-old Tyler Rigsby was locked in his bedroom, absorbed in an alternate reality: Xbox’s Modern Warfare 3. His mom says he was in there for at least four days. Maybe five.
When he finally emerged Tuesday morning, he went to his aunt’s house with his mother. That’s where he collapsed. Three times.
“It’s like he was looking at me but he wasn’t there. It was like he was looking through me,” says Jennifer Thompson, Tyler’s aunt. “We were talking and I heard a thump and I looked over and he just fell.”
Tyler’s mom, Jessie Rawlins, says he turned very pale and his lips became a disturbing blue color.
“I was very scared. I thought he was going to die,” she remembers. “He just fell over three times.”
Medics were called to the house and Tyler was taken to the hospital where they attached an IV tube and pumped him full of fluids. He was severely dehydrated.
Dr. Mike Patrick, an emergency physician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, says dehydration can be very dangerous, even deadly.
“When you’re dehydrated, the amount of fluid in your entire body is decreased and that includes the fluid that’s in your blood vessels,” Patric says. “So you have decreased blood volume. That leads to decreased blood pressure. When your blood pressure gets to a certain point, you’re unable to get enough blood up to the brain. If you’re not getting enough oxygen to the brain, that can cause you to pass out and it could cause you to die.”
Patrick says not getting enough oxygen to your brain will, at first, make you dizzy if you stand up quickly. Eventually, the deficiency will start to kill brain cells. He says the change in your blood caused by dehydration can also trigger the formation of blood clots. Those can move to your heart or lungs and kill you.
As for staying awake day after day, Patrick says your body will eventually shut down on its own. The reticular activating system fires neurons in your brain and that’s what keeps us awake. Eventually, those neurons run out of juice and can’t send the signals we need to stay awake and alert.
“After so long, it stops firing and you just go to sleep whether you want to or not,” he says. “You, eventually, run out of those chemicals. Your body needs sleep to replenish that activating system to keep you awake.”
Playing games for days on end keeps your body from rejuvenating its system. At a certain point, it has to shut down. That’s when we, eventually, pass out.
Patrick recommends some common sense when gaming: get plenty of food and fluids, take breaks for physical activity, and put the controller down now and then to get some decent sleep.
Jessie Rawlins says she and her son learned a lesson the hard way. She says he was pretty scared by the whole episode. And he didn’t complain about the punishment.
“The Xbox is gone,” she says.