David Deutchman, the ICU Grandpa

David Deutchman went from Atlanta-area retiree to, for lack of a better term, a total legend at Atlanta Children’s Hospital. For almost 15 years, Deutchman, aka the ICU Grandpa, helped both sick children and their parents simply by being a friend.

“After retiring from his job as an international marketing executive in 2000, Deutchman became a guest lecturer at Atlanta-area universities, mostly Georgia Tech and Emory, he said. But it didn’t fill enough of his time.

As he left a rehab appointment for a leg injury, Deutchman stopped into Children’s nearby.

“I decided to walk in there, just wondering if they had volunteer opportunities,” he told CNN. “They did, and they were happy to take me on board.” With experience at the helm of a classroom, Deutchman first went to work in the hospital’s school for long-term patients. Then one day, he was startled by encounters with two patients’ mothers.

“I went to help escort a child to the school room, and the mom said she’s going into surgery,” Deutchman said. “She followed me into the hallway and proceeded to tell me every detail of the child’s condition and what’s going on.” Awed that the mom told a virtual stranger all about her child’s condition, he then saw another mother walking out of the pediatric intensive care unit, looking upset. Her son had been flown to the hospital the previous night, she said, and his condition was dire.

“She comes into my arms and starts crying,” Deutchman said. “After that day, I went to the volunteer office and told them, ‘I now know what I want to do at the hospital.'””

Shortly after, Deutchman began to spend two days a week in pediatric and neonatal ICUs, holding babies and offering comfort, advice and conversation to their parents. The cradling of fragile babies has been shown to improve their health, so Deutchman’s volunteerism truly impacted kids in need in a real and tangible way.

Unfortunately, Deutchman passed this month after being diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer just weeks earlier. While he may be gone, his legacy lives on at Atlanta Children’s Hospital, and his memory will be in the hearts and minds of the children and parents he cared for forever.