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    • David Deutchman passed away on Saturday, just two and a half weeks after he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer 
    • He spent the last 14 years cradling babies and playing with children in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
    • Deutchman’s heartwarming story went viral in 2017 after the hospital shared a picture of him cuddling one of its tiniest patients 
    • After months of getting weaker and weaker, he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in late October and died on November 14
    • Deutchman is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ronnie; his daughters, Susan Lilly and Jill Deutchman; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren

    The ‘ICU Grandpa’ who spent the last 14 years cradling babies and playing with children in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has died of pancreatic cancer at age 86. 

    David Deutchman passed away on Saturday, just two and a half weeks after he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer. The NICU volunteer captured the hearts of thousands when his story went viral in 2017.   

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

    Loss: David Deutchman, who was dubbed the ‘ICU Grandpa,’ passed away on Saturday, just two and a half weeks after he was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer

    Kindhearted: The 86-year-old pent the last 14 years cradling babies and playing with children in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta

    Kindhearted: The 86-year-old pent the last 14 years cradling babies and playing with children in the pediatric and neonatal intensive care units at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

    Deutchman began volunteering at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta after he retired from a career in marketing. He would visit the PICU on Tuesdays to cuddle babies whose parents couldn’t be with them, and he made his rounds in the NICU on Thursdays.   

    He became so popular that parents would seek him out, earning him the nickname ‘ICU Grandpa.’ After the hospital posted a photo of him cradling a tiny patient in 2017, his story spread all over the world. 

    ‘He had a very successful business career, and I’ve never heard him talk with such appreciation and love for what he was doing any time during his 41 years with the company like he talked about his involvement with the people at the hospital,’ Lilly said. 

    Deutchman’s daughter recalled how he loved holding the babies and playing with the older children, knowing that he was bringing a sense of comfort to their parents and families.  

    Capturing hearts: Deutchman's heartwarming story went viral in 2017 after the hospital shared a picture of him cuddling one of its tiniest patients

    Capturing hearts: Deutchman’s heartwarming story went viral in 2017 after the hospital shared a picture of him cuddling one of its tiniest patients

    Volunteer: Deutchman would keep track of the families he encountered and would try to visit them if their children returned to the hospital, always happy to hold a hand or offer support

    Volunteer: Deutchman would keep track of the families he encountered and would try to visit them if their children returned to the hospital, always happy to hold a hand or offer support 

    ‘Some of my guy friends, they ask me what I do here. And I say, “Well, I hold babies. I get puked on, I get peed on, and they say, “Why would you do that?”‘ he told 11 Alive in 2017. ‘Some people just don’t understand the kind of reward you would get from holding a baby like this.’

    Deutchman would keep track of the families he encountered and would try to visit them if their children returned to the hospital.  

    ‘He would go back [to the hospital] even if it wasn’t during one of his days that he volunteered — especially if they had to have a certain procedure,’ Lilly said. ‘He would go in and hold their hands or hold them.’

    Volunteering eventually became too daunting for Deutchman, whose energy started to wane when he turned 85 last November. He considered retiring, but before he did, his volunteer position was put on hold as a safety precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    Deutchman continued to get weaker as the months passed, prompting him to see a doctor on October 27. He was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer the next day and advised to start hospice care.    

    Heartbreaking: The volunteer was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in late October and passed away on Saturday

    Heartbreaking: The volunteer was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer in late October and passed away on Saturday 

    Legacy: 'Volunteering absolutely enriched his life,' Deutchman's daughter Susan Lilly said. 'The most meaningful part was the actual time he spent with these patients and their families'

    Legacy: ‘Volunteering absolutely enriched his life,’ Deutchman’s daughter Susan Lilly said. ‘The most meaningful part was the actual time he spent with these patients and their families’

    ‘None of us expected to get such a dire diagnosis,’ Lilly told Today. ‘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.’ 

    The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta arranged a car parade to cheer Deutchman and his family up before his death. The hospital shared a video of the procession on Facebook while paying tribute to the beloved volunteer.   

    ‘To honor this hospital legend, who spent nearly 15 years tending to little ones in our intensive care units, our staff organized a drive-by parade outside of his home,’ the caption read. 

    ‘Led by one of our NICU transport trucks, a procession of nearly 30 cars — some carrying Children’s employees, some carrying patients who had been soothed by David many years ago — honked, waved, and shared well wishes as his family gathered in their driveway. 

    ‘For a grand finale, a Children’s transport helicopter circled over his home, an emotional tribute to a man who has dedicated his retirement years to watching over our kids.’    

    Showing support: The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta arranged a car parade to cheer Deutchman and his family up before his death

    Showing support: The Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta arranged a car parade to cheer Deutchman and his family up before his death

    Giving back: A NICU transport trucks led nearly 30 cars filled with hospital employees and patients past his home to send well wishes to him and his family

    Giving back: A NICU transport trucks led nearly 30 cars filled with hospital employees and patients past his home to send well wishes to him and his family

    Giving back: A NICU transport trucks led nearly 30 cars filled with hospital employees and patients past his home to send well wishes to him and his family 

    Family: Deutchman is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ronnie; his daughters, Susan Lilly and Jill Deutchman; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren

    Family: Deutchman is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ronnie; his daughters, Susan Lilly and Jill Deutchman; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren

    Parents whose children Deutchman had spent time with in the hospital took to the comments to praise him for his volunteer work. 

    ‘He has visited with [my son] Elijah many times over the past six years and would even stop by on our various ICU admits since,’ one mom wrote. 

    ‘David was a bright spot during our almost six-month stay at CHOA,’ another shared. ‘He would sit with [my daughter] Victoria during her NICU days, and sing to her when I was going to get food or shower. 

    ‘He brought so many treats to the Ronald McDonald House, too. He hand-painted two fish for me, because my husband was working with fish. He was always so thoughtful to our family. Thank you so much for being our rock through the most difficult challenge in our lives.’ 

    Deutchman passed away days later and was put to rest on Monday. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Ronnie; his daughters, Susan Lilly and Jill Deutchman; and his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

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