THE HEART OF FAITH
by Linda Macqueen
A young woman making her own way in the world isn’t always going to listen to her mother’s words of wisdom. But Heidi Gellert does try.
She’s thankful for the life her mum gave her 26 years ago—and then again, just last year.
‘I should listen to Mum’, she says. ‘After all, without her, I’d still be on dialysis and I wouldn’t have the life I’ve got now.’
Last year, her mother Annie gave Heidi one of her own kidneys. But that’s not the first organ transplant she’s received.
Heidi was born into a Lutheran farming family at Willaura in western Victoria. When she was just 13 months old, she became Australia’s youngest heart-transplant recipient. Readers of The Lutheran might remember an article about her, in the March 1990 edition. When Annie wrote that story, Heidi was recovering beautifully from the operation, much better than anyone had expected.
Then one day, five months after the heart transplant, Heidi became ill and was rushed to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, three hours away. There she suffered a massive stroke as Annie held her in her arms.
‘God was looking after Heidi’, Annie says. ‘If the stroke had happened at home, Heidi would have died.’
Even so, the little girl would spend the next eight weeks in the Intensive Care Unit, desperately ill. ‘They didn’t think she would survive’, Annie says. ‘If she did, she would be severely physically or mentally disabled, they told us. The doctors spoke to us about turning off her respirator.
‘One day, in the midst of despair, I heard Jesus say, “Trust me”.’
During those harrowing weeks, each time Heidi faced a new crisis Annie would ring her church community and ask for prayer (and she still does). She thanks God that again and again he heard their pleas and pulled Heidi back from the brink of death.
‘For all her life, Heidi’s been aware that God has saved her, several times over’, Annie says. ‘And her health struggles are not over yet, and probably never will be this side of heaven. She’s grown up facing the constant reality that her life is fragile. She learnt from a very early age that she has to trust in God for every precious moment, every day.’
But Heidi is quick to point out that hers is no fairytale faith story. In her early teens, she reached a frightening low, even thinking about suicide.
‘I’ve learnt to depend on God, that’s true’, she says, ‘but I’ve done a lot of kicking and screaming too. I haven’t always been happy with what he’s doing, and not doing. I wouldn’t want people to think I’ve got this super-charged faith. I haven’t. It’s just that my circumstances have forced me to trust in God … because I have nowhere else to go.’