Written by Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust

L31 welcomed a very special visitor yesterday! Chemo Duck visited the ward with Gabe Sipos, the inspiration behind the Chemo Duck programme, who had flown over from America to see how the idea has taken off at the Leeds Children’s Hospital.

Chemo Ducks are a fun, interactive way of showing children who are about to undergo chemotherapy what to expect. Each duck is fitted with a central line, similar to that which the children will receive their treatment through, and they are also shown how to take observations on the duck, like weighing them and checking their blood pressure, so it’s normal when they have it done themselves.

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Harry Phillips and Gabe Sipos with our play team and face painter

LTHT was the first hospital in the UK to introduce chemo ducks onto the wards and these were generously funded and imported by Candlelighters, Yorkshire’s children’s cancer charity. Former patient Harry Phillips, who received his very own Chemo Duck when he was diagnosed with leukaemia aged seven, and his parents, Andrew and Karen, have recently set up their own charity ‘Give A Duck’ to support the delivery of Chemo Ducks to hospitals across the country so that more children can have one during their treatment.

Candlelighters have worked with the Phillips family over the last few years. Originally the family stepped in to simplify the shipping process and this was promptly followed up with a huge fundraising campaign to fund the Candlelighters programme raising almost £100,000 so far for the charity.

Andrew said: “At first we thought that Chemo Duck was just another soft toy but it was a great way to relieve Harry’s anxiety about upcoming treatment and provide extra comfort for him during that time. Harry’s Chemo Duck was so important to him that we want every child undergoing chemotherapy to have one and that’s why we started this campaign to distribute them across the UK.”

The Leeds team also introduced specially made outfits for their Chemo Ducks, which are handmade by a volunteer group at the Rivers Meet Café, and children can choose a new one every month, from Batman to Minnie Mouse!

Photo Courtesy of LTHT
Photo Courtesy of LTHT

Kate Goldring from Candlelighters added: “We are so proud to have been able to work with LTHT to introduce the Chemo Duck programme and finally meeting Gabe today was just fantastic. This scheme hasn’t just been a case of purchasing ducks, Candlelighters also funds play worker roles, the people who really make the programme come to life. We can’t say thank you enough to the Phillips family and we are excited to see the impact of the new ‘Give A Duck’ charity. With the passion and drive of this family we know they will make a big difference to children fighting cancer nationally.”

Chemo Duck is already being adopted by other organisations across the UK thanks to ‘Give A Duck’, Lu Sipos its founder and the initial work to make the programme work in the UK, here in Leeds.