Meet the ‘ICU Grandpa’ Who Became a Viral Darling
Birth| | By Robin Milling
It has already been proven that spending time with our grandparents keeps them young. A special grandfather known as the “ICU Grandpa” keeps himself young by volunteering to cradle premature babies who spend their first months in the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
David Deutchman was outed on the hospital’s Facebook page for making his selfless rounds. The post, which received 64,000 shares and 236,000 likes on September 27 — along with a video that received nearly 189,000 views — has made him a viral darling. He’s an especially big hit among parents, some of whom have had their own babies cuddled by him and others who wish they had someone like Deutchman in their preemies’ life.
An outpouring of affectionate comments came from parents who have had the privilege of a visit from the ICU Grandpa.
“He rocked our baby for countless hours. What a wonderful gift he has, and what a blessing it is that he shares that love with others,” one mother wrote.
“He held our sweet Charlie while he was in the NICU and TICU ?? so grateful for him! Thank you for all of the snuggles you have given!,” another mother shared.
Even his loved ones, such as his daughter, Susan Lilly — as an EMT-Intermediate at Telluride Fire Protection District, she inherited her father’s service ethic — commented on the post.
“I’ve known David as a special man for 53 years — he’s my dad! To read the thousands of comments and see the outpouring of affection is very moving to our entire family. Thank you for recognizing my dad. He truly loves what he does. We are so very fortunate to have him as our father. My sister Jill Allison Deutchman and I could not have a better father, role model and best friend,” she wrote.
The desire to help strangers and their babies came upon Deutchman, who retired from his job as an international marketing executive in 2000, when he was looking for something else to occupy his time. After leaving a rehab appointment for a leg injury, he came upon the nearby Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“I decided to walk in there, just wondering if they had volunteer opportunities. They did, and they were happy to take me on board,” he told CNN.
Deutchman first volunteered to work with long-term patients, but his attention was drawn to the PICU after meeting a distraught mother who was exiting the unit that was caring for her son. That encounter inspired him to give his time twice a week, holding other mothers’ babies in pediatric and neonatal ICUs.
The video posted on Facebook shows Deutchman as he coos to the preemie and softly sings “You Are My Sunshine.”
“Some of my guy friends ask me what I do here. I tell them I hold babies. Sometimes I get puked on, I get peed on. It’s great. They say, ‘Why would you do that?’ They just don’t get it, the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby like this,” he said in the video.
Deutchman has become a hero to some parents who don’t know what they would do without him.
“We spent 9+months in the NICU at Scottish Rite. I can’t tell you how many times David would be there holding our daughter when we came in, or how he would force my wife to finally go eat something, under the promise that he would take good care of our Everly in her absence. It’s people like David, and all of the volunteers there, that made such an elongated stay in the nicu bearable. God Bless this man for all the good [he] has provided to countless families over the years!!!!” a father commented on Facebook.