Man Known as ‘ICU Grandpa’ Who Held Babies in NICU Dies of Pancreatic Cancer

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The beloved Georgia man known as the “ICU Grandpa” has passed away after a battle with pancreatic cancer on Saturday. He was 86.

David Deutchman has spent the last 14 years at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta giving support to the families and infants born inside the neonatal intensive care unit. Deutchman became a viral personality over the years after photos of him holding babies in the NICU and coddling them made him an inspiration and hit on social media and headlines across the country.

He began volunteering at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta after retiring from a lengthy career in international business.

“Volunteering absolutely enriched his life,” Deutchman’s daughter, Susan Lilly, told TODAY Parents. “The most meaningful part was the actual time he spent with these patients and their families.

The surrogate grandpa visited the hospital twice a week to cradle babies who need extra attention.

“Some of my guy friends ask me what I do here and I tell them ‘Well I hold babies.’ I told them ‘I get puked on, I get peed on it, it’s great,’” Deutchman said in an interview in 2017 for the hospital. “They just don’t get it, the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby like this. I love it.”

“It’s been wonderful because it gives me something to do that has meaning to it,” Deutchman said at the time as well. “I drive in here [and] I don’t know which kids and parents I am going to meet and what the issues will be and how can I help, it’s been wonderful for me.”

The time Deutchman spends with the babies was truly invaluable, according to NICU nurse Elizabeth Mittiga.

“He’s just a special person to us as nurses and our babies just adore him so we are so grateful for him to be a part of our unit and to be a baby buddy,” Mittiga said in 2017. “We treasure him.”

Mittiga said the comfort of human touch helps babies who are growing.

“It definitely helps just feeling that comfort that warmth,” she said at the time. “It helps them to grow faster and put more weight on. Feeding-wise, [it] can help them digest their feeds better.”

Deutchman’s health began to decline last year and he learned he had stage 4 pancreatic cancer just before Halloween 2020. Before his death, the hospital held a procession outside his home with employees and patients who paid tribute to him.

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