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Chalk art fundraiser aims to help family with baby waiting for heart transplant

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REXBURG — A baby born with a rare heart defect hasn’t left the hospital since she was born in February. Her parents are doing all they can to hold onto hope as their child awaits a heart transplant, while friends raise funds for their financial burdens.

“It’s been really emotional, really physically draining on us,” said Kelton Crittenden.

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

In January 2021, they were excited to find out they were pregnant with their first child. However, weeks later, they were crushed when that pregnancy ended with a miscarriage.

Then, a few months later, they found out they were expecting again. However, one of their doctors and friends, Matt Allred, discovered their baby girl had a heart abnormality shortly afterward.

baby coming
Sara and Kelton Crittenden. | Courtesy Sara Crittenden

Eventually, the couple was sent to Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and found out their baby had Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).

“It was new to us. It wasn’t something that we were expecting (because) no one in our families have ever had any heart disease before,” Kelton said.

The syndrome

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

The CDC estimates about 1 out of every 3,841 babies born in the United States each year is born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

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

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

“I had her at the University of Utah (hospital) and then within an hour or two, the life flight team brought her over to the cardiac intensive care unit at Primary’s and she’s been here ever since,” Sara said.

Sierra has had four surgeries so far in her three-month span of life. Her first one was when she was just five days old.

“It’s definitely been really tough. When she came out of her first surgery…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 heart transplant waitlist to try and improve her condition.

“They (doctors) said with how old she is, this is kind of the best chance scenario. So the older you are, the harder it is to have a heart transplant and your body accepting it and so being her age, her body is more accepting,” said Kelton.

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


Sierra
Baby Sierra. | Courtesy GoFundMe

The chalk art fundraiser

Meanwhile, financial stress has built up. That’s why Allred, plans to help the couple out.

“They are amazing people. As I’ve gotten to know them over the last three years … knowing some of the struggles that they have been going through and just 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 will be helping with a GoFundMe fundraiser for the family by doing something creative on the driveway of his home in Rexburg.

“I am going to be doing a chalk art outline of a hypoplastic left heart and then as donations come in, I’ll be basically coloring the heart from the bottom up to just kind of promote or at least encourage people to donate,” Allred explained.

The GoFundMe has a $15,000 goal.

The chalk art won’t be finished until it is filled with red chalk. Allred plans to color more of the heart red with each $1,000 earned. He explained, that just like every beat of the heart is important, so is every dollar donated. There will be updates on the chalk art on the GoFundMe page.

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

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

“We just want to thank everyone for being so willing to help us and praying for us and sending good vibes. We are just very appreciative of everything,” Kelton said.

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

Our attorneys tell us we need to put this disclaimer in stories involving fundraisers: EastIdahoNews.com does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries.

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