It’s easy to see why people say Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer is a super hero.
Disney+ and Marvel do. That’s why they chronicled the heartwarming story of how she uses the power of love to help others.
In 2009, Lorelei was recovering from her third open-heart surgery when her lungs collapsed. Nurses gave her a compression pillow. Patients with congenital heart defects hug the pillows for comfort. They also use them to push fluid out of their lungs so they can breathe more easily following painful surgeries. Lorelei’s was much too big for her, so she was inspired to sew a child-sized pillow for herself.
Lorelei started sewing one pillow a day. The word and demand spread. Soon, Lorelei got help from other kids — Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H kids. To date, more than 50,000 sick kids around the globe have received the colorful fabric pillows through Heart Hugs, a nonprofit organization Lorelei started with the help of her mother. She has also raised more than $150,000. That’s not bad for a kid born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a critical congenital heart defect that means she has only half a heart.
But that’s only half the story.
“Heart Hugs is about so much more than pillows,” said Lorelei. “The message of Heart Hugs is really what’s important. Our pillows go all over the world, but word about hope for serious heart defects goes even further. Most people don’t even know people can live with only half a heart.”
“Every moment of every day is impacted by Lorelei’s condition, but she chooses to make these challenges into something meaningful, and I admire her so much,” said Michelle “Chelle” McIntyre-Brewer, Lorelei’s mother.
“People like to think of hearts as the shape we use to represent Valentine’s Day, but hearts are a complicated organ that most people don’t understand,” Lorelei said. “That needs to change and fast. My advocacy is more helpful for kids like me than my pillows because I won’t stop until people listen to me.”
Lorelei, her mother, and her service dog, Mandu, traveled across the United States advocating for patients with congenital and critical congenital heart defects and spreading awareness. She’s worked through Heart Hugs with wounded Veterans, assisting them with medical care and resources for their families. She has also met with senators and left business cards with members of Congress.
“I don’t ask people if they want to help. I ask how they can help,” Lorelei said. “There is always something each person can do to help get things done, and I make sure people know this is a serious issue and we need help now.”
Lorelei’s mission and advocacy work caught the attention of Disney+ and Marvel, which scoured the country looking for amazing stories about inspiring kids. The resulting episode, “The Dazzling Lorelei,” is part of a new Disney+ show, “Marvel’s Hero Project,” that documents 20 young heroes who are making a difference in their communities. In a fun twist, Marvel illustrators turn each kid’s story into a comic book, which they reveal at the end of each episode.
“It’s about time to see a true representation of a child doing amazing things with such a dangerous condition,” said Chelle.
“We may not be able to do the same thing, go to the same places, or have all of the same experiences, but we have feelings and want to be included,” Lorelei said. “Be nice. Choose kindness.”
Even though “Marvel’s Hero Project” has immortalized Lorelei as a super hero, Chelle hopes people see her as more than a kid who makes pillows for other sick kids.
“I want people to see her for the advocate that she is … the one who has taken on senators on Capitol Hill when they weren’t supporting her uncle enough with his medical needs … the one who hands her business card out to the members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and expects to hear from them in a timely manner … the one who sits with other kids who have heart transplants post-operatively and sings to them while they are on life-support … the one fighting for her own life but never makes it about her.”
“Heart Hugs came from an experience I had and grew into something amazing and impactful,” Lorelei said. “I hope other kids can take their experiences and turn them into something that makes the world a better place.”Find More Stories