Lights are low and all is quiet inside Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite’s neonatal intensive care unit. In a large, plush, green chair sits 82-year old David Deutschman snuggling the tiny triplet against his chest.
“I know it brings comfort to the baby because you can see the way she’s reacting, that she loves being in someone’s arms,” says Deutschman. “And, of course, the younger they are, the more they need that sense of touch, and the security of being snuggled.”
That’s what this retired Atlanta marketing executive has done for the last few years, snuggling babies here in the dark hush of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite’s neonatal ICU.
“It’s very peaceful. Very rewarding to me,” he says.
Back in the early days, he says, they’d wait until babies cried to pick them up.
“But there have been so many studies done in the last decade showing how much babies thrive being held, how important it is to them,” says the senior citizen.
Babies like Angel, who can’t take her eyes off the man they call the ICU Grandpa.
“Maybe she hears my voice, or she feels the rumbling of my chest when she puts her head on my chest. They hear your heartbeat,” says Deutschman.
Most of these babies were born early, and, because of complications that require around-the-clock, intensive nursing care. So, they’re parents can’t bring them home, and can’t be here all the time. So, Deutschman fills in the gaps — looking for newborns who need him.
“My guy friends can’t believe that I do this,” notes Deutschman. “They say, why do you do that? And I tell them, ‘It’s great because sometimes I get puked on, I get peed on! It’s, I mean, why wouldn’t I love it.”
And, some days, the babies aren’t the ones who need to be held. The parents are.
“Some guys don’t understand that, holding a man in your arms. But hang around this ICU for a few years, and you’ll see how easily you can do that,” says Deutschman.
In their corner of the NICU, Phillip and Tiffany Guthrie understand. Their first child Paxton was born at 23 weeks, weighing just 1 pound 10 ounces, back in April. Every day since, they’ve savored every moment here, then go home, without Paxton.
“Honestly, I can’t even describe and put into words, (what it’s like) to leave our son every single day. It’s been six months,” says Tiffany Guthrie.
That need keeps the ICU Grandpa coming back.
“He has a good heart. And babies feel that I believe. I know that Paxton, he feels different people’s spirits,” adds Paxton’s dad, Phillip Guthrie.
And when it’s time for him to head home, David Deutschman, will leave Children’s “gratified, that I did something worthwhile today. It was a good day, I held a baby, I held a parent in my arms. It was a good day.”