‘Pray for Seth’ Helps Local Young Man Seth Barronian Recover from Accident

A recovering Seth Barronian gives a thumbs-up next to the ‘Pray for Seth’ rock.

by Judy Schwanke

A birthday. A graduation. An anniversary. Messages are changed almost daily on the “rock.” Situated on a hillside that leads down to Southcenter Parkway, a very large boulder awaits the next coat of paint, the next message. If it could tell a story, oh, the tales it would have. For three months, though, the story had stayed the same. The message was a simple one, but has held so much meaning.

“Pray for Seth” the message read, and with it, a beautifully painted picture of young man named Seth Barronian. Seth has lived to tell us about the story that surrounded the rock for 96 days.

On Saturday, April 21, Seth and his friend, John, both who are experienced long boarders, got together to do some long boarding. Set out to try a new route in the Tacoma area, the boys did what they always do before riding a new route: they walked the road, making mental notes of its terrain before embarking on a fun adventure. Midway into the ride, cruising at 20-25 mph, something went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. Around a big curve, with a truck approaching the two young boys, they proceeded with caution. John glanced back at Seth, who was doing good. Seconds later, he glanced again, and Seth was down. The truck driver, seeing what happened ahead, pulled over. By the time he reached Seth, blood was pooling out from a large gash in Seth’s skull. Convulsions began. Body going into shock. Blackout. A flurry of calls to 911, Seth’s mom, family members. It remains a mystery as to the cause, but witnesses say his board looks like it hit a stick. But the fact remains: he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

“I remember getting the call,” explained Sheri Barronian, Seth’s mom. “I was at the grocery store, and heard the words, ‘Seth has been in a longboarding accident and is being taken to Tacoma General. Hurry!’”

Once at Tacoma General, Seth was treated in the trauma center with severe head injuries, and within 1 ½ hours, was taken into surgery to relieve the pressure in the brain. The situation was grave.

Seth Barronian in the hospital.

“He only scored 4 out of 15 in the Glasgow Coma Score,” explains Sheri, “which really means severely disabled.”

The score is compiled by testing eye, verbal, and motor responses.

During this time, the family had been gathered and they were escorted into a room to meet with the social worker.

Seth’s Dad, Dr. Alan Barronian.

“It was very frightening because my experience has been when a social worker gets involved in an emergency room, things typically aren’t going very well,” said Dr. Alan Barronian, Seth’s dad. “I really didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to see my son,” he added.

Dr. Barronian is well-known Orthopedic Surgeon himself, and practices at Southwest Seattle Ambulatory Surgery Center in Burien.

Following surgery, Seth was placed in an induced coma and taken to ICU for monitoring and further testing. An early CT scan showed a temporal fracture on his skull and his hearing could be impacted. The intracranial pressure fluctuated often into the dangerous zones, and the unknown still remained heavy on the family.

Seth’s older brother, Trevor, who quit his job to support Seth, set up a Facebook page, “Seth’s Condition,” where he posted updates and prayer requests beginning the day after the accident. The number of members rapidly grew as friends found out about the accident and wanted to keep up with any updates on his condition. The number topped at over 2,500 people, some of whom haven’t even met Seth, but heard about his accident and wanted to pray for him and the family, often sending words of encouragement and support.

Within a day, Reece Oliver, a fellow classmate at Seattle Christian where Seth attends school, began making purple t-shirts with “We ♥ Seth…Romans 15:13”. Monies raised from this project went to the family.

“Two-thousand dollars were raised from this, and we are now praying about what to use the money for,” explains Sheri. Teachers, students and parents of Seth’s school bonded together for support during the difficult days that followed.

“I have never seen the school come together spiritually as it did during this tremendously difficult time,” explained Dan Edmondson, a high school teacher at Seattle Christian. “Serendipitous prayer meetings and spontaneous times of worship would break out in the hallways as they once used to many years ago. It was amazing!” he added.

While daily updates were posted by Trevor on Facebook, prayers were being answered in Tacoma.

“It seemed like each time we were faced with another setback, and then things turned around for the better, we found out that at that very same time, people were praying for Seth,” said Sheri, blinking back her tears.

Students at Seattle Christian would gather around the flag pole wearing their purple t-shirts to pray. People from church groups, individuals across the world, and even the Pope prayed for Seth.

“Somehow, someone contacted the Archbishop in Seattle about taking the prayer request for Seth to Rome,” explains Sheri. “He was traveling to Rome, so the timing was perfect and he did see the Pope and the prayer request for Seth was one of those he received!” she added.

Against all odds, including infections, a blood clot, pneumonia and a host of other complications, just over one week after his accident, Seth’s breathing tube was removed. He was taken off sedatives, the central line was removed, and the first words out of his mouth when he woke up were, “Hi, Pay, Pay” and “I love you Momma.” Payton is Seth’s older brother.

It was during this time that Trevor shared what the doctor told Sheri:

“[On Thursday] the doctor told my mom that when he saw/operated on Seth Saturday night he didn’t believe that he would survive the next couple of days. He believed that the brain would continue to swell and eventually shut down. I just wanted to mention this because even though Seth is not even close to being recovered, or even out of critical condition, he has still exceeded expectations and remained alive.”

Prayers were continued to be lifted up for Seth, and prayers were continuing to be answered. With the good news that Seth was going to be okay, Daniel Blagovich, a good friend of Seth’s since 1st grade, had a another way to honor Seth. Ten days after the accident, on May 1, Daniel painted the longest-standing message on the “rock” that anyone can ever remember. Daniel explains that while he was painting, people were stopping on the hill to ask him what it was about, and he began to share Seth’s miraculous story.

“I wanted a way to remind people to ‘Pray for Seth’,” shares Daniel. “Seth and I share our love of art, and this was a good way to honor him,” he added.

While each day Seth gained ground, he was also faced with challenges of coping and comprehending all that had happened. He was often irritable, in and out of reality, but still making definite progress. When Trevor told him about the Facebook group to which he replied to the number of people following the posts, “I don’t even KNOW that many people!” When Trevor asked him if there was anything he wanted to say to everyone, Seth’s response was, “I am very sexy!” adding that he also wanted to say thanks to everyone.

Seth was later moved to Children’s Hospital in Seattle to begin his rehab program in preparation to go home. Regaining and relearning how to do certain things were part of his daily therapy sessions. They practiced speech, writing, vision, coordination and strength, and eight days later he was writing his name. It was during this time that the rest of the family felt comfortable enough to travel to New York City to see Payton graduate.

On June 29, 69 days post-accident, and miracle after miracle, Seth came home to Normandy Park. He continues doing physical, occupational and speech therapy two times a week and has a whole new look on life.

“Since when I felt God’s hand catch my head before I fell to slow me down, I now have a super, super, SUPER relationship with God. I just want to share my faith with other people and share how magnificent God is,” shares Seth.

The family recently took a 12-day trip to Europe that was planned long before the accident happened.

“We never thought in a million years he would be able to go. He went in a wheelchair but didn’t need one on the way back. We learned how to say ‘pardon me’ in French and Spanish because he kept running into people due to his vision loss,” laughed Sheri.

Seth is currently writing a speech on safety to share with local elementary school students. His main message? “Wear a helmet. We used to, when our parents told us to, wear our helmets around the corner and then take them off and throw them in the yard. It was because of a stupid selfish decision that I made that caused my parents to suffer so much. It’s not worth it. Listen to your parents – really!” said Seth with a serious look on his face. Seth plans to attend his Senior year at Seattle Christian, and just last week underwent an evaluation that determined he can attend part time to finish up the requirements he has left to earn his diploma.

“The family has been supported so much! God has a purpose and a plan – we just had to cling to that through it all,” shares Sheri.

Like the rock’s other messages before “Pray for Seth” and those to follow (the rock has now been painted over), Seth will continue to share his story of the miraculous journey which has now, he believes, brought him to a better place in life.

“If I didn’t have all the prayers, I wouldn’t be here right now.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: We heard about Seth’s accident several months ago, and had been trying to do a story on him while respecting his family’s privacy. We’d like to send a special shout-out to Judy Schwanke, who we used to work with in our early journalism days at the West Seattle High School Chinook! We’d also like to send our best to Seth and his family and friends, and we’re looking forward to hearing him play saxophone again for his ska band Juice, which we play regularly on our sister site SoKing Internet Radio.

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