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Grete Horn: The One and Omie

December 23, 2019
Saturday, April 14 is a day Lynda Schultz will never forget.

Not just because it was the day the matriarch of their family, her mother, died, just 10 weeks after her father, but because of the way she died. Every detail is seared in Lynda's memory, thanks to one compassionate Emergency Department physician and one special nurse.

For 42 years, Lynda talked to her mother each morning. This morning was different. Grete was in pain. Lynda knew her tough woman wasn't complaining if it wasn't serious. She immediately brought her to GBMC.

"From the moment we arrived, the entire GBMC staff was remarkable," Lynda recalled. "Everyone was really great, but once Dr. (Jeffrey) Souryal and Jeanne (Wehage) came on board, our experience was beyond phenomenal. They exceeded every expectation and, looking back, they couldn't have treated their own mother any better."

Grete Horn with her granddaughter and namesake
Grete Horn with her granddaughter and namesake
The prognosis wasn't good from the start. Grete had pain in her back and a UTI, and was very weak. The blood work didn't look good, but it was a puzzle. No one could figure out what was going on.

Even so, Dr. Souryal never stopped communicating to the family.

"The communication was incredibly excellent. They always made sure that we were aware of what was going on and we were on the same page. There was never a mystery," Lynda said. "He showed us the computer screen, he explained every detail of what was going on, every test that was done, all the red marks, all the signs, all the arrows. There was not one thing he didn't explain.

"And all of it was delivered with such incredible compassion."

As the day drew on, the prognosis wasn't getting better, and Lynda asked Dr. Souryal what he would do for his mother. He recommended hospice.

Forty-five minutes after arriving at Gilchrist Center Towson, the intake nurse recommended they forgo paperwork to spend time with Grete. Lynda crawled into one side of the bed, and her daughter, Brooke, crawled into the other. Lynda's husband, Fritz, held the phone for Lynda's other daughter, Heather, and her family, who were out of town, as everyone said their last goodbyes with a prayer.

"We didn’t even cry right in that moment because we were so at peace that my mom had been given the very best. By the best in the business. It was a remarkable ending to an unbelievable life," Lynda said.
Grete Horn with her daughter, Lynda
Grete Horn with her daughter, Lynda

Peace came from having staff who, throughout the experience, delivered nothing less than exceptional care.

"They were patient-focused, totally," Lynda said. "What this whole visit was characterized by was we felt like family. With Jeanne and Dr. Souryal and our family, we became a team together, working for the very best for my mom.

"My mom was such a strong woman, an incredible person, truly my best friend. My mother loved – from my perspective – like no other. Her life was hallmarked by sacrifices and how she loved her family."

Born June 6, 1927 in Nuremberg, Germany, Grete lived during World War II, including standing in line for food rations that might not come if the siren wailed. At 23, she was working for the American government when she met a young American solider. Despite her parents' wishes, she left her homeland and followed that man to the United States.

Married for 75 years, Grete enjoyed cooking, knitting and playing golf. But her favorite hobby was taking care of those she loved, which is why at the end of her life, her loving, dedicated daughter wanted to make sure she was the one taken care of. Lynda says, thanks to GBMC, the family was able to give that to her.

"How ironic to say life would have a beautiful ending, as the ending is often very difficult," Lynda said. "But we were at peace, and that peace lives within us every single day, and that peace comes from GBMC. We will live with that and carry it with us forever."
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