Sarah Chalke, in a Grey's Anatomy episode that aired in March, played a mother who insists there's something terribly wrong with her young ailing son despite doctors telling her otherwise. In the show, it turns out her instincts are correct: Her little boy is revealed to have Kawasaki Disease, a rare autoimmune illness that, if left untreated, can lead to heart disease.
If her portrayal felt raw and real, it's because that storyline is ripped from her life. Chalke's son, Charlie, was 1 when he became really sick. Doctors told her and fiance Jamie Afifi it was just a virus, but Chalke thought it was something more serious. It wasn't until she badgered them to investigate further that her little boy was diagnosed with KD.
Her experience with KD -- and getting it diagnosed correctly -- was so harrowing that Chalke brought her story to Shonda Rhimes, the creator of Grey's Anatomy, in the hopes of educating people about the condition. Rhimes ended up devoting an entire episode to the actress' ordeal and asked Chalke to star as the mom of a Kawasaki-afflicted boy.
Now the actress, 36 has started a Crowdrise fundraiser called "Kawasaki Disease Challenge" to solicit donations to go toward research and development of a diagnostic test for the disease (currently no such test exists). "I can't put in words how scary it is to see your baby sick and not know what is wrong with him, have doctors not know what is wrong with him, and have a different diagnosis every day," she wrote on the fundraiser's Crowdrise page.
Chalke's goal is to bring in $100,000; so far, more than $30,000 has been raised. "The Gordon and Marilyn Macklin Foundation will match every donation up to $100,000 so this is the chance to double your donation," she tells Us Weekly. "Every week we'll have prizes donated by my friends and I."