Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer, 11, of Duncannon, Pa., a sixth-grader at The Cove School, built a volunteer network that has provided more than 12,000 special pillows for children around the world undergoing heart surgery. Lorelei was born without a left ventricle in her heart and has endured 26 medical procedures. After Lorelei’s third open heart surgery, her lungs filled with fluid and collapsed. She was given a “compression heart pillow” to help manage pain and express fluids, but the pillow was adult-size, and much too big for Lorelei. She decided that kids like her needed kid-size pillows. “I knew what it was like to go through the pain of open heart surgery. I wanted to come up with a way to make it easier for other kids,” said Lorelei.
Lorelei learned to sew, bought materials with her own money, and began making one pediatric compression heart pillow per day. As word got out, people started contacting her to request pillows or offer to help make them. To coordinate the work of volunteers both near and far, Lorelei worked with a seamstress to create a pattern, and consulted with a medical team at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about how to sterilize the pillows and package them safely. Lorelei has sent her pillows to young heart patients as far away as Ireland, China and South Africa. She also has raised more than $25,000 to support cardiac care for children. “I’m missing half a heart, but that won’t stop me,” she said.