‘ICU Grandpa’ Who Spent 14 Years Comforting Premature, Sick Infants Dies of Cancer

November 25, 2020 Updated: November 25, 2020

A great-grandfather who spent 14 years comforting sick babies at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia, has sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 86.

The hospital’s “ICU Grandpa,” staffers confirmed in a statement to The Epoch Times, has been a volunteer of their pediatric and NICU unit at Scottish Rite since 2006, providing support to so many infant patients and their worried families.

“The Children’s family will never forget this incredible legend and the countless lives he touched,” the hospital expressed.

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David Deutchman, the “ICU Grandpa,” cradles premature infant Logan at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia. (Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Only 17 days separated Deutchman’s diagnosis of stage four pancreatic cancer and his passing from the disease on Nov. 14. His daughter, Susan Lilly, told Today Parents that nobody expected her father’s diagnosis, but Deutchman chose to face the end with dignity and gratitude.

“Volunteering absolutely enriched his life,” said Lilly, 55, describing her altruistic father.

“He had a very successful business career,” she reflected, “and I’ve never heard him talk with such appreciation and love for what he was doing any time during his 41 years with the company like he talked about his involvement with the people at the hospital.”

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Deutchman comforting one of his “kids” (Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

When Deutchman made headlines in 2017, he told People that he took up his beloved role in the NICU after retiring from a long career in international business marketing. The role, he said, was deeply gratifying, and not just because holding the babies kept them from crying.

“There are a lot of benefits to that warm connection of being held,” he reflected. “[W]hen a baby puts their face against your heartbeat, there’s a benefit there. I came to love it. … the whole atmosphere.”

Deutchman knew he was helping stressed parents as much as their infants, too. “Having somebody tell them they can go get breakfast and assure them I’ll be there with their baby, it means something to them,” he explained. “It’s important.”

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Nurse Joanna Slade praised Deutchman, saying she “never saw a baby crying in his arms” (Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Children’s Healthcare organized a parade on Nov. 10 to honor Deutchman’s dedication to helping others.

“In 2017, the story of our ‘ICU Grandpa’ touched people all over the world,” the hospital posted on Twitter. “Last week, we learned he has stage IV pancreatic cancer. To honor this legend, our employees organized a drive-by parade outside his home, complete with an NICU transport truck and [helicopter].”

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The drive-by parade outside David Deutchman’s house. (Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)
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The drive-by parade outside David Deutchman’s house. (Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Deutchman’s volunteer role was placed on hold when the pandemic affected hospital regulations, but staffers never forgot his impact upon some of their most vulnerable patients.

“He was a very soothing presence to our children,” Nurse Joanna Slade told CNN, having worked with Deutchman for eight years. “He would always be there to cuddle the child when the parents or family couldn’t be there.”

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(Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

Deutchman is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ronnie, his daughters Susan and Jill, his grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

“Anyone can have a purpose at any stage of their lives,” Lilly, who became a volunteer EMT after garnering inspiration from her father, told Today Parents. “It was maybe surprising to him just how much he got out of this.

“Volunteerism and being of service to others is deeply rewarding,” she said.

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(Courtesy of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta)

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