Marty Gutmann knows better than most what compassion can mean to someone facing serious illness. As a nurse, she saw the incredible impact of hospice care firsthand, so she jumped at the chance to serve on the Hosparus Health Southern Indiana board more than 25 years ago.
That’s also why she did not hesitate to engage our care when her husband, Dr. Gordon Gutmann, was facing the end of his life in 2015. While she knew that Hosparus walks alongside patients and families on every step of their journey, she was surprised at just how much the experience with our care would come to mean to her and her husband. “I felt like I kind of knew what to expect, but it was even better than I expected,” she says.
Marty continues to give her time, talent and treasure to Hosparus Health for one simple reason — because she believes our care offers a vital combination of compassion and support in the final chapters of life. Hosparus is here so that no one has to navigate serious illness alone.
Dispelling Misconceptions About Hospice
Now retired, Marty says that early in her nursing career, people did not want to talk about death.
“So many people were afraid of dying because they didn’t know what to expect, but hospice came around and started changing that,” she says. “I’ve always believed in hospice care, even before it was popular. By having conversations about it, hospice changed the whole philosophy of life and death.
“Hosparus helps people understand how beneficial it is to have a better quality of life,” she adds. “I think it’s really important to give people some options. Why not make the time you have the best it can be?”
Marty is encouraged by how awareness has spread since she first got involved. “It used to be that people would call Hosparus two weeks or only days before they died.” Thankfully, that’s changing, she adds, because “you don’t get the full benefit of hospice that way.”
Decades of Service
Marty first joined the Hosparus Health Southern Indiana board in the early 1990s. She was serving as Chair when President and CEO, Phil Marshall, was hired in 2006.
“When Phil came in, he had great ideas on how to make our care more inclusive,” she says. “He’s added a lot of good people, and expanded our service area quite a bit. He’s really impressed me with how much more progressive the organization has become, including the addition of palliative care for people with a chronic illness.”
As a nurse, Marty worked at both nonprofit and for-profit hospitals, and she really appreciates the mission-driven approach of a nonprofit. “With a nonprofit, the philosophy is to put everything back into the organization to improve and enhance care,” she says.
A Personal Experience
Marty had been involved with Hosparus Health for about 20 years before she needed our care for her own family. When the time came, she knew exactly what to do.
In early 2015, her husband was facing complications from diabetes, as well as heart and kidney issues, and the couple decided not to seek dialysis treatment. That’s when Marty called Hosparus Health.
Because physicians can be notoriously difficult patients, she was not surprised when her doctor husband told her he wasn’t ready for hospice care. “I told him, ‘Well, I’m ready. I need help and support through this,’” Marty says.
Gordon reluctantly agreed. “His nurse worked with him so well. She always involved him in his care and did not try to push him,” Marty says. Soon, he began to look forward to her visits. When he declined a lunch invitation from a friend because his nurse was coming that day, Marty knew he had relaxed and was taking a lot of comfort in the care his Hosparus team was providing.
“He was very happy with his care,” she says of her husband of 35 years.
“The doctors and nurses were such kind of people,” Marty adds, as well as Gordon’s social worker, chaplain and CNA. A volunteer visited and sang Amazing Grace with Gordon, which was very moving for them all. “Hosparus meets your every need, and they were all very kind and understanding.”
Hosparus Health’s care helped take the stress out of Gordon’s illness so he and Marty could concentrate on making the most of the time they had left together.
Thanks to our care, Gordon was able to go out and enjoy his time with family and friends for nearly nine months, right up until Christmas 2015. “Hosparus made sure he was very comfortable, and he was very happy to be able to see people,” Marty says.
When he was no longer able to go out in the last few weeks of his life, his friends and former co-workers came to visit, and that meant the world to him and Marty.
Hosparus Health “lets you do those things that might never happened otherwise,” Marty says. Gordon’s final chapter was “the best that it could be.”
Care for the Whole Family
One of the biggest benefits was the comfort Marty received from Gordon’s care team. His nurse and social worker would reassure her that she was doing everything she possibly could as his caregiver.
“It made me feel good to know that I was doing what I needed to do,” she says. “It wasn’t just the patient they were concerned about. They’re concerned about the family, too.”
After Gordon passed away in January of 2016, Marty took advantage of Hosparus Health’s grief counseling services to help her process her feelings, and that resource “was very helpful,” she says. “You think you’re prepared, but you’re not.”
A Valuable Service
Marty continues to be a strong advocate for hospice care and Hosparus Health. “I certainly have encouraged a lot of people to call Hosparus, and to make donations,” she says. “I just tell them what good work they do and how important it is for people to have that kind of service available.”
She believes hospice is such a valuable service because it keeps people out of the hospital.
“Without hospice or palliative care, if someone started having chest pain or their diabetes got out of control, they would go to the emergency room. Hospice helps people manage their disease and their symptoms. It’s so much less expensive to stay at home, and everybody’s happier at home. It’s a win-win situation.”
Marty rolled off the HSI board after 18 years, but later rejoined. She’s due to step down for a second time next year, but will continue to be a strong supporter.
Marty was an early donor to our ambitious People of Compassion fundraising campaign, which will expand and enhance our care and ensure the long-term sustainability of our organization. She says she will continue to support Hosparus Health for years to come because “I believe in it, I just truly, truly believe in it. When you see the good it’s doing, it just makes sense.”
Hosparus Health needs your help more than ever to ensure families who are navigating serious illness get the extra layer of care they need. Please click here to make a gift. Any amount makes a difference!