Chemo Ducks comfort young cancer patients

by Kelly J. Larson | J335 | Spring 2011

Chemo Ducks provide comfort and companionship to young children during cancer treatment. The stuffed animals have tubes identical to those used for chemotherapy, as well as a matching bandana and an activity book that explains what the child is going through. Family members, nurses, doctors and child life specialists can also use Chemo Ducks to explain the cancer treatment process more easily to the young patients.

The American Family Children’s Hospital at the University of Wisconsin-Madison does not have these readily available for patients, but one hospital employee wants to change that.

chemo duck

Regina Yocum with a Chemo Duck

As a child life specialist, Regina Yocum helps young patients and their families through challenging experiences with illnesses. For children in the oncology department, Yocum likes to use Chemo Ducks.

“When a Chemo Duck isn’t available, I use other stuffed animals to help explain to the kids what they’re going through,” she said. “But the ducks are so much better for that.”

Chemo Ducks are part of Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program. According to the program’s website, it began in 2004 by Lu Sipos for her cancer-stricken son, Gabe. When Gabe was 1 year old, Sipos developed an idea for her son to have a companion throughout his cancer experience and gave Gabe the first Chemo Duck.

One Chemo Duck costs $25, but they can be bought in a bulk of 12 for $250. Because the UW Children’s Hospital does not provide funding to purchase the ducks, Yocum and the families that want one have to purchase them on their own or rely on donations from the program’s website or other sources.

Yocum’s goal is to get the program to become part of the hospital’s budget: “I would love to be able to give one right away to a family who comes rushing into the hospital on a Thursday night instead of waiting a month to get one.”

Recently, Alpha Phi Omega, a volunteer service fraternity at UW-Madison, raised $275 for the UW Children’s Hospital to purchase the minimum 12 Chemo Ducks. This will allow Yocum and others at the hospital to distribute the stuffed animals more quickly to the young oncology patients in need of companionship and comfort as they endure cancer treatment.

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