Chalk Art fundraiser aims to help family with baby awaiting heart transplant

REXBURG — A baby born with a rare heart defect has not been discharged from hospital since being born in February. His parents do everything they can to keep hope alive as their child waits for a heart transplant, while friends raise money for their financial burdens.

“It was very emotional, very physically exhausting for us,” Kelton Crittenden said.

Kelton and Sara Crittenden have been married for two years and live in Rexburg. They have had their fair share of difficulties.

In January 2021, they were delighted to learn that they were pregnant with their first child. However, weeks later, they were crushed when that pregnancy ended in miscarriage.

Then, a few months later, they found out they were pregnant again. However, one of their doctors and friends, Matt Allred, discovered their baby girl had a heart defect soon after.

Sara and Kelton Crittenden. | Courtesy of Sara Crittenden

Eventually, the couple was sent to Children’s Primary Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, and discovered that their baby had hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

“It was new for us. It wasn’t something we expected (because) no one in our families had heart disease before,” Kelton said.

The syndrome

According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, HLHS is a birth defect that affects normal blood flow in the heart. As the baby develops during pregnancy, the left side of the heart does not form properly. The left side of the heart cannot properly pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. Typically, several surgeries are done after the baby is born to help increase blood flow.

The CDC estimates approximately 1 in 3,841 babies born in the United States each year are born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Sara and Kelton’s baby, Sierra, was born Feb. 17 in Utah.

Kelton and Sara
Kelton, Sara and Sierra. | Courtesy of Sara Crittenden

“I had her at the University of Utah (hospital) and then within an hour or two the life steal team brought her to Primary’s Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and she’s been here ever since. “Sara said.

Sierra has had four surgeries so far in her three months of life. Her first took place when she was only five days old.

“It was really very difficult. When she came out of her first operation… she was a whole different baby. She was so swollen. (She) couldn’t even open her eyes because her eyes were so swollen,” Sara explained.

In April, Sierra was put on a waiting list for a heart transplant to try to improve her condition.

“They (doctors) said with his age it was kind of the best case scenario. So the older you are the harder it is to have a heart transplant and your body accepts it and so being his age, his body accepts it better,” Kelton said.

While Kelton and Sara wait for baby Sierra’s transplant, she remains in the hospital where she is constantly monitored.

Baby Sierra. | Courtesy of GoFundMe

chalk art fundraising

During this time, financial stress has accumulated. That’s why Allred plans to help the couple.

“They are incredible people. As I have come to know them over the past three years…knowing some of the struggles they have been through and the difficulty of dealing with a newborn with health issues, I need them to have some hope during this difficult time,” Allred said.

Allred said he would participate in a GoFundMe fundraiser for the family by doing something creative in the driveway of his house in Rexburg.

“I’m going to do a chalk drawing of a hypoplastic left heart and then as donations come in I’ll basically color in the heart from the bottom up to just promote or at least encourage people to donate” , Allred explained.

The GoFundMe has a goal of $15,000.

Chalk art won’t be complete until it’s filled with red chalk. Allred plans to color the heart more red with every $1,000 earned. He explained that just as every heartbeat matters, so does every dollar donated. There will be updates on the chalk art on the GoFundMe page.

“To me, it was just so heartwarming to know that someone who wasn’t even our family, cared so much and was so willing to go out there and do whatever they could to help us and I think through this whole process, (Matt’s) kind of became our family,” Kelton said.

The Crittendens said so many people have reached out to them to try to help and they are grateful.

“We just want to thank everyone for being so willing to help us, pray for us and send good vibes. We just really appreciate it,” Kelton said.

Sierra and her parents
Sara, Kelton, Kelton’s son, Beau, and Sierra. | Courtesy of Sara Crittenden

Our attorneys tell us that we must put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: does not guarantee that money deposited into the account will be applied for the benefit of those named as beneficiaries.

About Oscar L. Smith

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