Updated: 05/20/2014 1:14 PM
Created: 05/14/2014 1:50 PM KSTP.com
By: Josh Rosenthal
What started out as a routine play session at a park nearly turned deadly Tuesday in Brooklyn Park after a boy almost suffocated to death.
Gabe West turns 10 years old Thursday. It's already been a birthday week he won't soon forget.
"I thought I was gonna die," he said from his hospital bed on Wednesday.
According to police, the boy became entangled in a strap hanging from the monkey bars on a playground of Park Haven Apartments, apparently hanging himself. He was conscious and breathing when officers arrived at Park Haven Apartments in Brooklyn Park around 6:30 p.m., but had significant ligature marks on his neck.
Gabe passed out. His mom, Stacy, came running.
"I could've lost my son," she cried. "I could've been burying him when I'm supposed to be celebrating his birthday."
He was taken to the intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, the grandmother said.
Police talked to a girl who helped free the boy from the black strap. She said one end of the strap was hanging from the bars and the other was wrapped around the boy's neck.
The boy's mother told police she ran outside upon hearing her son was entangled in the strap, and saw her son hanging from the monkey bars, which are an estimated 8 or 9 feet off the ground.
The mother said she believes her son would not try to hang himself and has not made any threats to hurt himself. She did say her son has ADD or ADHD.
Police said they talked to other children who were playing when the incident occurred and believe the boy was simply climbing across the monkey bars when he got caught up in the strap.
Gabe is still sore and bruised, but he is expected to make a full recovery. His family wants to share his story because they hope it helps prevent something similar from happening to another child.
"This could've happened to some other kid, and it could've turned out a lot worse," Stacy explained.
Dr. David Hirschman, the emergency department medical director at Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, says he sees plenty of kids with playground injuries, especially around this time of year, and he says the key to keeping them safe is supervision.
"It's a fine balance between a little supervision and free play," he said. "So let the kids be free, let them run around as long as things are safe."
It's something Gabe will certainly pay more attention to. Stacy says from now on, if Gabe's on the playground, she will be too.
"I started asking God," she recalled, "please don't do this to me, and just like that he started breathing again."
Management at Park Haven Apartments says it is there policy that all children be supervised while on the playground. Brooklyn Park police say this is an isolated incident, and they haven't had problems at the apartment complex previously.