‘ICU Grandpa’ has soothed hospital’s youngest and smallest patients for 12 years

For 12 years or so, David Deutchman — recently nicknamed “the ICU Grandpa” — has been tending to the needs of babies, children and their parents at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals.

“Some of my guy friends ask me what I do here. I say, ‘Oh, I hold babies. Sometimes, sometimes I get puked on, I get peed on. It’s great.’ And they say, ‘Why would you do that?’ They just don’t get it — the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby,” he said.

Deutchman said he was coming to the hospital for rehabilitation after a running injury 12 years ago when met some mothers. From conversations with them, Deutchman said, he realized that he wanted to make more of a connection with parents and children being treated at the hospital.

He started volunteering at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta hospitals after he retired from a job in international business marketing.

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Deutchman started in the pediatric intensive care unit and eventually added the neonatal intensive care unit.

“It’s been wonderful because it gives me something to do that has meaning to it. Every day I drive in here, I don’t know which kids and parents I’m gonna meet and what the issues will be and how can I help,” he said. “It’s been wonderful for me.”

He now volunteers Tuesdays in the PICU to hold babies and on Thursdays he makes rounds in the NICU.

“In the PICU, they have two to three new admits every night so the first thing I do is visit the moms who were admitted the previous night. Usually they need a break or someone to talk to. And I make sure they can go down for breakfast and I’ll stay with their child until they get back,” he said. “I think in PICU I spend more time with the parents. … Whereas in NICU, it’s the reverse.”

Elizabeth Mittiga, a NICU nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, said the staff treasures Deutchman’s calming presence.

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

In his own life, Deutchman has two daughters in their 50s and grandchildren who are 19 and 21. He told ABC News today he had no plans to stop volunteering at the hospital.

“Right now, I’m still going strong and enjoying it an awful lot,” he said. “So as long as they’ll have me, I’ll be there.”

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