Thousands of people quickly learned to love the grandpa who spends his time cradling preterm infants in the ICU when their parents can't be with them. Get to know "ICU Grandpa" and why what he's doing isn't just adorable but also very important.
David Deutchman, affectionately called "ICU Grandpa," has been volunteering at the Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) for the past 12 years. On Tuesdays, he spends time with infants in the PICU, and on Thursdays, the babies in the NICU get their turn with him. He apparently began volunteering at the facility after his retirement and does not at all mind getting puked or peed on.
"It's great," says Deutchman.
On Sept. 28, CHOA posted a photo of Deutchman cradling an infant named Logan in his arms in the facility's PICU. According to the post, the photo was taken by Logan's mom who was fighting back happy tears when she saw Logan in Deutchman's arms. The post goes on to say that Logan has been in the PICU for six weeks after being born at just 25 weeks and that his mother had to go home every night to his big sister.
CHOA followed up the touching photos with a video of Deutchman singing "You are My Sunshine" to another baby. Clearly, Deutchman, who has two daughters and two grandchildren himself, thoroughly enjoys his time with the infants.
"They just don't get it, the kind of reward you can get from holding a baby like this," says Deutchman when asked about his peers' reaction to his volunteer work.
The original post has since garnered over a hundred thousand likes and over 50,000 shares.
Preterm Infants' Early Life Experience
Though it may not seem like much, what Deutchman does is actually very important, not just to the parents who have to leave their children in the hospital but also to the babies themselves. Unlike full-term babies who get to go home with their mommies and daddies, preterm babies often need to stay in hospital facilities for the first few weeks of their lives. Although they are cared for by the hospital staff, they do not get the sort of attention and affection that they could get from their parents.
A study that was published earlier this year focused on the importance of touch to preterm babies' development. What they found was that among preterm babies, supportive experiences result in strong brain responses to touch stimuli, whereas painful experiences such as tube insertions result in reduced brain responses to the same touch stimuli.
Basically, because the neurodevelopmental outcomes of preterm babies rely strongly on touch stimuli, positive experiences such as the ones ICU Grandpa offers the infants could also lead to stronger development later on.