David Deutchman, the man who made a name for himself as the “ICU grandpa” who spent the last 14 years cuddling babies in the NICU at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, tragically passed away on Saturday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 86 years-old.

Deutchman’s death was confirmed to People Magazine by the hospital where he spent much of his time helping babies.

“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta extends its deepest sympathy to the family of David Deutchman,” the hospital said in a statement. “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.”

Deutchman’s daughter Susan Lilly told Today Parents that her father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at the end of October, and that he died just two weeks later.

“None of us expected to get such a dire diagnosis,” Lilly said. “He made it very clear to all his loved ones and even his friends that he feels grateful to have lived a full and rich life.”

Children’s Healthcare honored Deutchman and his legacy with a drive-by parade outside his home just before his death. The parade included a NICU transport truck and even a helicopter.

Deutchman became a viral sensation back in 2017, when he told reporters that he volunteered at the hospital twice a week to hold and comfort babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. He explained that he began this volunteer work after retiring from a long career in business and marketing.

“It is very gratifying, not just because the babies are crying and you help them to stop crying,” Deutchman said. “There are a lot of benefits to that warm connection of being held — when a baby puts their face against your heartbeat, there’s a benefit there. I came to love it, but not just because of the connection with the babies, but the whole atmosphere of the hospital.”

He went on to say that his efforts to bring comfort spread to the babies’ mothers, too, as they often needed a hand to hold.

“There’s a lot of stress for these parents,” Deutchman said. “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 is survived by his wife Ronnie, who he was married to for 58 years, as well as two daughters. He also leaves behind several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Recommended