Tributes are pouring in for David Deutchman, a beloved “ICU grandpa” who cuddled babies in an intensive care unit for 14 years, after he died from pancreatic cancer.
After working in business for 14 years, Deutchman spent two days a week in the paediatric and neonatal intensive care units of the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital.
His story went viral back in 2017, with many praising the way he was choosing to spend his retirement.
“It is very gratifying, not just because the babies are crying and you help them to stop crying,” Deutchman told People. “ I came to love it, but not just because of the connection with the babies, but the whole atmosphere of the hospital.”
He also relished the opportunity to help parents at such an emotional time.“There’s a lot of stress for these parents,” he added. “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.”
Deutchman’s daughter Jill, wrote on Facebook on 30 October: “I have to share some very difficult news about the World’s Best Dad. Dad just got diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer and it’s metastasized to the point that it is untreatable.
“He is at home with Mom and feeling ok but it’s quite a shock to our family and we are still digesting the news. I know how much everyone loves my dad and would want to be able to share words of support while he can appreciate it. Love you Dad.”
“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta extends its deepest sympathy to the family of David Deutchman,” the hospital said in a statement to People. “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.”
Last week, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta organised a parade on the volunteer’s road – including a car parade of 30 cars containing employees, patients and their families, with a helicopter overhead.
“For a grand finale, a Children’s transport helicopter circled over his home, an emotional tribute to a man who has dedicated his retirement years to watching over our kids,” a statement on the hospital’s Facebook page reads.
When his story first went viral back in 2017, Deutchman talked about how rewarding his time volunteering was, even if some of his friends didn’t understand it.
He told 11 Alive: “Some of my guy friends, they ask me what I do here. And I say, ‘Well, I hold babies. I get puked on, I get peed on’, and they say, ‘Why would you do that?’ Some people just don’t understand the kind of reward you would get from holding a baby like this.”