J. C. Kuehn Miller

Read. Write. Repeat. Aspire to be a Janitor.

Birth Defect Awareness Killed by Sensational Media

Sensational reporting is the death of certainty and social awareness. The reporters seek to please their editors. The editors wish to please the paper’s owners. The owners want to make money. The public needs to be amused. Amusement is the undoing of truth.

enhanced-24058-1413910781-22On October 17th, 2014, Christian Faith Benge collapsed and died in an Ohio haunted house attraction. The mainstream media picked up the story several days later. The problem? They completely ignored the actual cause of her collapse. Christian was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) along with other birth defects. These complications ultimately led to her enlarged heart stopping in the middle of the Halloween attraction.


CDH is a birth defect found in 1 out of every 2500 babies. It has a 50% mortality rate. The cause is not known.

Non-profit organization, CHERUBS- The Association of Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Research, Awareness, and Support, is headquartered in Wake Forest, NC. For 19 years now, CHERUBS has advocated for and aided families with CDH babies. By completely ignoring the root cause of Christian’s death, the media struck a punishing blow to organizations like CHERUBS.

Instead of informing the public about this deadly defect, news sources spun the story to advertise Halloween activities. Instead of reporting the facts, papers opted for click-bait styled headlines. Instead of giving potential donors information, journalists capitalized on the real emotion felt by everyone hurt by this event.

Sensational headlines like the following did nothing but stir up strife for Christian’s family and friends.

“Scared to Death? Teen Has Fatal Heart Attack at Ohio Haunted House” by Hasani Gittens (NBC News)

“Did a Haunted House Scare This Teen to Death?” by Leah Rocketto (PopSugar)

“Ohio Teen With ‘Time Bomb’ Heart Condition Fatally Collapses While Walking Through Haunted House” by Rida Ahmed (HNGN)

“Family Denies Teen Was ‘Scared to Death’ at Haunted House” by Gillian Mohney (ABC News via Good Morning America)

“Christian Faith Benge Dies After Heart Stops In Haunted House” by Andres Jauregui (Huffington Post)

“Can You Be Scared to Death at a Halloween Haunted House?” by INSIDE EDITION

In that last article by INSIDE EDITION, the mother, Jean Benge, is quoted saying, “It’s not fair to us and the family to read the awful articles that she was scared to death,” yet they still chose to publish the article with that same incendiary phrase.

The blame does not solely rest on the media. They have money to make. The public starves for entertainment. They seek distractions from the reality of everyday life. Caught up in sensational phenomena like we saw with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the public makes Idiocracy reminiscent videos rather than educating themselves about the actual disease.


To regain ethical journalism, we must understand the symbiotic relationship between the media and the public. We, as a reading community, need to hold news outlets accountable for the quality of facts-based reporting. Likewise, the media needs to encourage our society to look at the facts, to think critically, and to embrace an awareness of their neighbors. If we can agree to fulfill this idea of accountability, then our social consciousness will be more in harmony than any other time in recent history.

In order to understand the weight of how detrimental fear-mongering and click-driven journalism really is, we must first look outward and then inward. Look outward to Christian Benge. Look at her life. Look at how hard she fought for 16 years. Imagine her mother, Jean Benge. For 16 years, she watched her beautiful daughter grow up- against all odds. Be empathetic to their suffering.

Now, look at the headlines. Look at how the news sources dealt so heartlessly with her story. How they turned a blind eye toward the cause of Christian’s death. How they could have brought CDH to the public eye. How would you like to be remembered as the girl who was “scared to death?” No, let us remember Christian Benge how we would want to be remembered: as an individual who succumbed to a lifelong struggle with a vastly unknown birth defect.


Keep your thoughts and prayers with the Benge family. Keep your thoughts and prayers with all the CDH families across the globe.

If you want more information or want to donate toward CDH Awareness, Support, and Research, visit the CHERUBS website.


18 comments on “Birth Defect Awareness Killed by Sensational Media

  1. Shelly M.
    October 24, 2014

    As a grandma to a angel cherub lost to CDH complications and a member of the CHERUBS leadership team I applaud you and THANK YOU for this article!!!

    Shelly Moore
    CHERUBS Oregon Co-Rep
    CHERUBS Parental Advisory Board (CPAB) volunteer

    Remembering Jayden – A Family’s Journey in Coping with Loss to CDH

  2. C Beare
    October 24, 2014

    I think what the media did was horrible. They should be focusing on how to give people information about CDH. Very few people know that CDH is a birth defect and the complications of it later in life. As a 16 year old survivor myself this story really had an impact on me and I wish that the media had handled it better than they did.

  3. Cherub Charley's mummy
    October 24, 2014

    Thank Heavens someone posted some sense ! From here in the UK I was saddened by the headlines . As a mother to a daughter born with CDH I’m well aware of the struggle and journey the family faced during Christians life . Chdren who survive CDH in the main continue to overcome hurdle daily . To see your child run , eat, breath is a miracle . Many parents sadly lose their children . Christian was having fun . Being normal . Any journalist who thinks those headlines sold more papers needs to rethink their social responsibility and pray they never face a CDH battle . Trust me they need to read up in the occurrence of Cdh and think – can you afford to lose that many readers of your papers !

  4. Kaytee
    October 24, 2014

    Thank you for using your graceful words to honor Christian Benge and to bring awareness to this little known birth defect.

  5. Heidi
    October 24, 2014

    Bless you for bringing awareness to a very sad situation that the mainstream media has taken advantage of for their own need for sensationalism. May your words help to show the truth of CDH, and to honor this young woman, and share our sorrow with her family. As the parent of an almost 18 yr old survivor of CDH, my heart goes out to the family and friends at this time, as do my prayers.

  6. Janice Crawford
    October 24, 2014

    As mother to my daughter Angel who was born with CDH 23 years ago. I would like to thank you for this you are helping all CDH families to by spreading awareness and a site for people to go to learn more.

  7. Brigette Tophen
    October 24, 2014

    Our family is also affected by CDH. Our daughter was born with an undiagnosed case 24 years ago. She is a true survivor. She and all other survivors and CDH ANGELS and their families would have been better helped if the media had sought to inform the public about this debilitating condition. Our children fight so hard to survive against insurmountable odds and to be treated as a subject in order to sensationalize a story to give readers a thrill is inhumane. Christian and her family deserved better and I hope that the media will remember this story is about a child who lived life to her fullest despite her rocky start. She should be commended as well as her family for living life. Amen.

  8. Julie
    October 24, 2014

    Thank you so much!

  9. Amanda Plakholm
    October 24, 2014

    Thank you for a well written article. This family deserves the respect you have shown them with this piece. I can’t imagine what they have gone through losing their daughter and having such ignorant articles and comments written about them or Christian. Thinking of the Benge family.

  10. Julie King
    October 24, 2014

    As a mother of an almost 15 year old daughter with CDH…THANK YOU for this article!! CDH is a constant struggle, and we need to do research, and spread awareness about this horrible defect. God bless you for this piece.

  11. Jane Stockwell
    October 25, 2014

    Our prayers are with this CDH family. I can’t imagine thinking something like this happening to our CDH survivor.
    Please continue to spread awareness so others know about CDH.

  12. Heidi Thomas Pehrson
    October 25, 2014

    Great info, Dawn. I am sharing on FB and LI. How unfair to the family 😦

  13. Jason Benge
    October 25, 2014

    This was all we wanted the media to say. Thanks so much for reporting the right article. God Bless ya !

  14. lhendo430
    October 25, 2014

    As a mother to a CDH survivor, thank you for bringing awareness to this horrible birth defect. It hit close to home reading this horrible headlines.

  15. Stephanie
    October 25, 2014

    I feel the same way, my family was a victim of news sensationalism, and said family member’s children were named in the news, and they are minors. Sorry for your loss to the family, hopefully media will leave things alone soon.

  16. Amanda Green
    October 26, 2014

    I knew this young lady, She had been a student of mine when she was younger. Everyone kept talking about how she died at Land of Illusion and what did they do wrong. I told/reminded as many people that she had health issues and they need to stop saying stuff until they knew the truth. However, even knowing the truth hasn’t made a difference. People still want drama, scandal and entertainment. Bless you Christian (and all others with this condition). You will be so missed.

  17. Jim and Donna Alexander
    October 27, 2014

    Thank you for writing this. Blessings to you from the parents of a CDH child ~ Jim and Donna Alexander

  18. Pingback: Working for a Non-Profit is More Than a Job (CDH Action Day) | J. C. Kuehn Miller

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on October 24, 2014 by in Blog and tagged , , , , .
Public Orthodoxy

Bridging the Ecclesial, the Academic, and the Political

Poems and Petals

Because poetry. And petals.

Patching Cracks

Manhood, Marriage, and Family From a Biblical Perspective


A modest attempt at thinking with assertive criticism.

Beautiful Life with Cancer

Discovering the Gift


This site is all about ideas

Chris Martin Writes

Sowing seeds for the Kingdom

Vonj Productions

Bringing you love through spirit!


The website of Luther M. Siler, Author/Editor/Curmudgeon


A topnotch WordPress.com site


Faith Seeking Understanding

The Neighborhood

is under renovation in preparation for our 6th Season

Digital Dimensions

Blog about Blogging and Digital Marketing. Post any job related to Blogging / Digital Marketing for free.

Something Like a Storybook

from Morgan Bradham

O at the Edges

Musings on poetry, language, perception, numbers, food, and anything else that slips through the cracks.



GODINTEREST - Christian magazine covering faith, culture and life

Godinterest is a place to talk about God, Culture, Life and all that other stuff

%d bloggers like this: