UPPER CHETCO STUDENT IN COMA

March 05, 2002 12:00 am

Sterling Sybrandt, a fifth-grade student at Upper Chetco Elementary School, was in a coma Tuesday after suffering massive head injuries when he fell off a rope swing at a neighbors house.

Sybrandt, who was injured Friday, was flown to the pediatric intensive care unit at U.C. Davis in Sacramento.

According to his mother, Betsy Sybrandt, Sterling was playing on a rope swing with a tire attached to the bottom.

The rope hangs from a tree and swings over a ravine located on teacher Ginger Kennedys property. Sterling apparently lost his grip, flipped and fell on his face.

Sterlings brother, Royal, and Kennedys daughter, KLa, ran to the Kennedy house to report the accident.

I cant describe what happened, Kennedy said. I wasnt actually there, I was inside the house watching TV. Royal and Kla came in the house and said, Mom, dad, theres been an accident. Sterlings been hurt.

Kennedy immediately called 9-1-1 on the house phone and her husband, Mike, ran to the site with his cell phone. He found Sterling lying at the bottom of the ravine and called Betsy on the phone.

Sterling was transported by ambulance to Sutter Coast Hospital in Crescent City.

A CAT scan revealed multiple skull fractures and swelling in the brain. At that point, Sterling was flown to the special childrens trauma center at U.C. Davis by Cal-Ore Life Flight.

I want to thank the pilot, Lee Garvin, Betsy said. He was great.

Sterling was diagnosed with a shear injury. This injury occurs when the brain rapidly shifts forward and backward in a high-speed traumatic injury.

He has severe head injuries behind his right eye and multiple cavities at the base of his skull, Betsy said Tuesday.

But they didnt have to drill into his skull.

Paralysis was a major concern, Betsy said. At first, he couldnt move his right side, but the swelling has gone down and he can move. He is responding to outside stimuli, like touch, but he cant respond to voice commands.

Betsy and her husband, Ray, are staying near the hospital; one of them is by Sterlings side at all times.

The doctors think he will wake up, but we just dont know when, Betsy said.

A donation fund has been set up at Washington Mutual Bank in Sterlings name to help the family with medical costs. Donations may be made to the Sterling Sybrandt account by contacting Washington Mutual.

Students in the Sense of Place Community Leadership program at Azalea Middle School will host a fundraiser for Sterling in front of Rays Food Place and Fred Meyer on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., said teacher Maggie Prevenas.

Sterling was recently featured in a Pilot story about a Mardi Gras celebration at Upper Chetco Middle School.