David Deutchman, 86, was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer and passed away two and a half weeks after that.
Who doesn't want a loving grandparent? Children who have grandparents are lucky to be able to spend time with them, and those senior adults are grateful for being able to spend time with the little ones. There are some people who want to go beyond caring for their grandkids and help other kids as much as possible. David Deutchman, the beloved "ICU grandpa" was one of them.
The 86-year-old spent 14 years cuddling babies in the NICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta before dying on November 14 of pancreatic cancer. He is survived by Ronnie, his wife of 58 years, daughters Susan Lilly and Jill Deutchman, and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as per People.
The loving grandpa used to spend hours in the NICU where sick babies whose parents couldn't be with them stayed until they got better or passed away. He provided them comfort by hugging them and even though many people didn't understand why he did it, he loved volunteering in this role. The hospital confirmed David's death in a statement and praised him for his service.
"Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta extends its deepest sympathy to the family of David Deutchman," the statement read. "David was a long-time volunteer in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care unit at Scottish Rite for 14 years, providing support to many patients and their families. The Children's family will never forget this incredible legend and the countless lives he touched."
David's story became famous in 2017 and he was interviewed by multiple news organizations. In 2017, he told Fox 5, "It's very peaceful. It's very rewarding." He was given the nickname "ICU Grandpa" when he started spending his days at the hospital as a "baby buddy" or professional baby cuddler after retiring from a long career in international business marketing.
"He just makes you feel like you're part of the family, that his patients are part of his family, and you think about your Grandfather," said Joanna Slade, a nurse who works at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
In 2017, he had also shared that some of his guy friends didn't understand why he did this. "I get peed on. I get puked on. I mean, why wouldn't I love it?" David had said.
"It is very gratifying, not just because the babies are crying and you help them to stop crying," he said, as per People. "There are a lot of benefits to that warm connection of being held — when a baby puts their face against your heartbeat, there’s a benefit there. I came to love it, but not just because of the connection with the babies, but the whole atmosphere of the hospital," he added.
He didn't shy away from the dirty work of taking care of the tiny babies and was a source of support to their parents as well. "There’s a lot of stress for these parents,” he said. "Having somebody tell them they can go get breakfast and assure them I’ll be there with their baby, it means something to them. It’s important.”
The champion cuddler didn't live long after his cancer diagnosis. In late October, he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer and passed away just two and a half weeks later, his daughter Susan told Today Parents. "None of us expected to get such a dire diagnosis,” she said. "He made it very clear to all his loved ones and even his friends that he feels grateful to have lived a full and rich life." She compared her father to a clergy member or social worker and added that people came to him to confess and seek advice.
The Children's Healthcare wanted to honor him before he passed away and arranged a drive-by parade outside his home because of the coronavirus restrictions. They also brought a NICU transport truck and helicopter for the event.