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Chemo ducks comfort kids

As a child, a cancer diagnosis can be scary, but members of the Colonie Police Benevolent Association and the Happy Hats and More Inc. are doing their best to help kids deal with those concerns.

Colonie PBA President Investigator Bob Cazastas and Vice President Michael Torrey gave Geraldine Cristo-DePaul, president of Happy Hats and More, Inc., money to purchase 18 Gabe's Chemo Ducks, devices meant to ease the stress surrounding chemotherapy infusions. The ducks were unveiled April 14.

Mahler said having the ducks is immensely beneficial for the children having to face treatments for childhood cancer.

The duck basically is a therapeutic tool to go through treatment with, said Natalie Mahler, a Certified Child Life Specialist at Albany Medical Center. "It makes them feel like something they can relate with."

The duck is the size of a stuffed animal and comes equipped with a portacath, which is a tiny plastic round piece placed in a child's chest near their heart with a central line that connects to the veins around the heart. Mahler said this is the most potent way to receive the medicine.

Having this installed in the duck allows kids to feel more comfortable with getting one. The duck also wears a bandanna matching one given to the kid who owns it.

Mahler said it is more of a visual tool for preschool-aged children. So when a nurse needs to perform a procedure, they can test it on the duck first to help ease the patient.

"The nurse is able to access the duck with needles, the same as they [the patient] get," Mahler said. "It is something with them that they can practice with to relieve anxiety."

The ducks can also be used as a teaching tool for school aged kids to explain what a port is and the importance of having one.

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