Zack’s Mirror Image

Ian Hughes doesn’t mince words.

“Chemo Duck is pure genius,” he said. “In a nutshell it is absolutely fantastic.”

Ian, is the father of nine-year-old Zachary and has been very pleased with how his son was able to use Chemo Duck to communicate during his nearly four years of cancer treatment while a patient at Birmingham Children’s Hospital in England, UK. 

Zack, pictured left, with his younger brother Toby.

In December 2007, Zack was diagnosed with ALL. Soon after he received Chemo Duck, which the Hughes family carried with them to all of Zack’s clinic and hospital stays, which he simply called ‘Duck’.

“Duck gave my child a chance to understand what was happening or at least be able to rationalize what was happening,” said Ian. “It didn’t make things go away, but it did make going through some of the daily routines a bit easier.”

Chemo Duck comes outfitted with either a central line or a port-a-catheter, depending on the cancer diagnosis and treatment required. The Hughes’ decided to add a few other elements to Zack’s duck in an effort to provide their son with an even more realistic picture.

In the UK, the central line catheters are called wigglies. Zack’s grandmother made him a wiggly bag to hold the lines safely when not in use. Duck also received his own wiggly bag.

When Zack required a naso-gastric tube (ng), Duck got one too. Duck became a mirror image, so to speak of Zack, which was essential as the Hughes’ discovered that their son was dealing with more than a cancer diagnosis.

Within months they found that he had Klinefelter Syndrome, a set of symptoms resulting from additional X genetic material in males, which is characterized by signs developmental delays, speech and language deficits, and learning disabilities.

An autism diagnosis followed one year later.

Designed as a therapeutic tool to assist parents and medical personnel better prepare children for chemotherapy, Zack’s duck had a few unexpected advantages, said Hughes.

“Because of the Klinefelter’s, he has very little expressive language and cannot tell us that he is pain for instance,” explained Ian. “He couldn’t explain things or even talk. So we found that Duck was a good thing because it helped him with his frustrations and anger. We saw him either imitate what the doctors were going to do or if he was angry, he would take it out on Duck.

“For special needs kids like Zack,” said Ian, “Chemo Duck gave him play therapy and a way to rationalize what was going on. That was very useful to us as his parents to see that he knew what was happening.”

Now in remission, Zack’s last chemo was in 2011, Duck watches over him from a shelf in his room.

Get to Know Kare Krates

Providing cancer patients with loving care packages is now just a few mouse clicks away at Designed to help patients cope with the most common side effects of chemotherapy treatments, Kare Krate care packages provide a convenient way to support friends or loved ones diagnosed with cancer.

We are proud to partner with Kare Krate for a special package featuring Chemo Ducks, furthering our mission to support little ones diagnosed with cancer.

Kare Krate’s current products include a Basic, Comfy and Complete Krate. Every single care package includes items that address the most common side effects of cancer treatment like:

  • Anti-nausea pops, mints, and ginger teas to ease nausea
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush and mouthwash to alleviate dry mouth
  • Moisturizing lotions and creams to keep skin hydrated

The Comfy and Complete care packages include the basics plus extra comfort items that help make treatments at the hospitals or at home a little more cozy.

“While get well cards and flowers are nice, Kare Krates provide comfort with essentials to help offset the side effects of chemotherapy,” says Chris Keller, founder of Kare Krate. “Kare Krate conveniently packages and ships the items that health care professionals suggest will help patients undergoing treatment — allowing loved ones more time to offer support in other ways.”

Learn more at