David Deutchman spent nearly 15 years comforting the hospital’s smallest patients.

By Meghan Overdeep
November 17, 2020
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Credit: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta

For nearly 15 years, David Deutchman spent his Tuesdays and Thursdays volunteering at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA), holding babies whose parents can’t be with them that day.

On Tuesdays, the man affectionately known as “ICU Grandpa” made his rounds in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). On Thursdays, he visited the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), never knowing what he would find behind each door, but always smiling.

Deutchman held thousands of babies over the years, capturing the hearts of the nation along the way.

“When I drive into that parking lot every other day, I never know what I’m going to see, who I’m going to be meeting, or what challenge will be in front of me,” he told People in 2017. “It keeps changing, but if there’s anything I can do to make sure people are taken care of, that’s what I’m going to do.”

In October, Deutchman’s family announced that he was suffering from untreatable stage IV metastatic pancreatic cancer. Over the weekend, the ICU Grandpa passed away at the age of 86.

"It is with our deepest sadness that my sister Jill and I share that our sweet father David Deutchman passed away at home Saturday afternoon, 17 days after being diagnosed with metastatic Stage IV Pancreatic cancer," Susan Lilly wrote on social media. "Mom, Jill and I were by his side. We all already miss him terribly and always will."

Shortly before his passing, CHOA organized a drive-by parade for the hospital “legend.”

Led by a NICU transport truck, a procession of nearly 30 cars—some carrying CHOA employees, some carrying patients who had been soothed by Deutchman many years ago—honked, waved, and shared well wishes as his family gathered in their driveway.

To top that off, a CHOA transport helicopter circled over his home in what the hospital described as "an emotional tribute to a man who has dedicated his retirement years to watching over our kids."

“We didn’t know everyone passing by, but we felt so connected to them,” Deutchman’s grandkids said in a statement. “All the kids he’s cared for and the employees he’s formed friendships with—he loves them like they were his own. And we felt that same love from them today.”

Our hearts go out to the Deutchman and CHOA families. Rest in peace, sweet ICU Grandpa. A legend, indeed.

This story originally appeared on southernliving.com

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