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'Baby Whisperer' volunteers time, love for babies at hospital

Don Klusmann, a volunteer, earned the nicknam "Baby Whisperer" by sharing his time and compassion with the tiniest patients at a Texas hospital.

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SAN ANTONIO — They call him the "baby whisperer."

Don Klusmann, a volunteer, earned the special nickname by sharing his time and compassion with the tiniest patients at a Texas hospital.

Klusmann has been visiting the Children's Hospital of San Antonio twice a week for about a year and a half. He volunteers there, which is something he's been doing at different hospitals for almost 20 years.

"I've been working with kid my whole life," Klusmann said. "God created me to have a heart for kids. And throughout my whole life I've been working with kids from brand new to 17 years old."

Klusmann's compassion takes on extra meaning in the neo-natal intensive care unit, where at any given time there are 30 to 40 infants – up to 70 percent of which are transported from outside of San Antonio, meaning many of the parents can't be with the children.

"I come in and I spoil all the kids, and then I hand them back to the nurses," Klusmann said. "It's kind of like being a grandparent."

Lincoln, who is 6 months old now, has spent his entire life in the ICU. He has intestinal problems and will need a transplant somewhere down the line. But he's a happy baby in Klusmann's lap.

Mike Donato, Lincoln's father, is a deputy sheriff. Donato appreciates having someone like Klusmann to help care when he's not there.

"It's that peace of mind knowing that someone is here, that (Lincoln's) being held and that he's having that interaction with people," Donato said. "It's rough knowing it's not you, but it's good to know that someone is here."

The nurses also understand and appreciate Klusmann's value.

"He meets some of (the babies') needs that sometimes a bedside nurse can't meet," said Crystal Stricklin, director of nursing neo-natal ICU. "If she's busy starting an IV or feeding another baby, (Klusmann) can step in and just provide love and a little extra care for our babies."

And all will agree, we need more people like Klusmann in this world.

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