Family Denies Teen Was ‘Scared to Death’ at Haunted House

The 16-year-old girl who collapsed and died after visiting an Ohio haunted house was not “scared to death,” her family says.

Christian Faith Benge was on a family trip last week to the Land of Illusions haunted house in Middletown last week when she collapsed.

Benge’s mother, Jean Benge, said she and a paramedic performed CPR on the teen before she was taken to a local hospital. The teenager was pronounced dead after arriving at the hospital.

Benge said she has been frustrated by early news reports insinuating that her daughter was “scared to death.” Benge, however, cited a life-long congenital defect as being responsible for her daughter’s not-surprising death.

Benge said her daughter was born with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia. The condition means abdominal organs move into the chest because of a hole in the diaphragm, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

The defect had been fixed when Christian Faith Benge was an infant, Benge explained, but there was long-term damage related to the condition, including an enlarged heart and one nonfunctional lung. She said her daughter was never told to avoid certain stressful situations, such as so-called haunted houses.

“It had enlarged four times her natural size,” Jean Benge of her daughter’s heart. “It kicked out. When she collapsed, she died instantly.”

After talking to the coroner, Benge said she believes her daughter’s heart could have given out anywhere and that they just happened to be at a haunted house.

The Warren County Coroner in Ohio will not officially release a cause of death until toxicology tests return.

Benge said she is trying to focus on her daughter’s managing to survive far longer than expected and the many friends in her school and local church. She said doctors had not been optimistic that the girl would live past infancy and even sent her home to die when they couldn’t do anything else to help her, Benge said.

“My husband named her [because] Christian faith is the reason why she lives,” Benge said. “People rule out miracles in our society. She was a living proof that God still works miracles.”

There are some cases where patients with cardiac conditions should avoid stressful situations, but such cases are rare, according to Dr. Sahil Parikh, a cardiologist at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland.

Parikh, who did not treat Benge, said the most common reason for sudden death is an arrhythmia, when a heart’s electrical system malfunctions and can cause the heart to stop beating or to beat irregularly. In cases similar to the one described by Benge, when the heart is enlarged, the patient can be more at risk for sudden heart failure.

“The heart gets bigger and bigger as it gets weaker and weaker,” Parikh said. “It was trying to compensate.”

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