David Deutchman had a 41-year career in international marketing when he retired.  Like many retirees, he needed something to keep himself vital.  He chose to volunteer at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta.  He supported the pediatric and neonatal care unit (NICU) as a cuddler.

David’s gentle touch helped babies in distress.  “There are a lot of benefits to that warm connection of being held – when a baby puts their face against your heartbeat,” David says.  David also provided comfort to mothers and fathers, knowing that there was someone who would provide comfort to their babies when they couldn’t.

David volunteered at the hospital for 14 years.  He was known as the NICU grandpa.  His volunteering was forced to end when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.  Upon his death, the hospital organized a drive-by parade outside his home accompanied by a NICU transport truck and helicopter.

David Deutchman chose to be a friend to severely ill babies and their parents.  We tend to think of friendship as a social activity.  The true meaning of being a friend is being someone who provides comfort and joy no matter the occasion.  Social media has distorted the meaning of being a friend.  Friends are not collectables.  They are people who we can talk to about serious matters and seek their advice.  Friends are people who look out for our best interests even when we may not see situations as they do.  Our relationship with friends is much more than social.  It is personal and often deeply emotional.

Think about David Deutchman’s friendship with the children he cuddled and their parents.  He provided comfort and emotional support.  He was also a friend to the caregiving staff in a very stressful environment.  Just imagine the emotions that David must have experienced  the loss of a baby with he had cuddled.  Now compare David’s friendship with the babies he cared for with how the concept of friendship has evolved in our society today.

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“Friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness.”  -Euripides (Greek playwright)

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