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Cuddly toy that gives hope to kids like Ceejay; Cancer charity brings US programme to Ireland; EXCLUSIVE.

Byline: ELAINE KEOGH

A SOFT toy is helping brave young children in their fight against cancer.

Susan Brown, mum of two-year-old Ceejay, said the yellow and blue Chemo Duck has made a huge difference to her little boy during his treatment for leukaemia.

Susan said he takes it everywhere with him and it gives him comfort because in his eyes "Chemo Duck is going through chemotherapy too".

His dad Marcus said: "He is able to verbalise and act out his own fears with Chemo Duck."

Ceejay was one of the first children to be given the toy after they were brought into Ireland by children's cancer charity Aoibheann's Pink Tie (APT).

Just like the children, Chemo Duck has a special line coming out of its chest. It is a Hickman line and is nicknamed Freddie.

APT's Alan Keane said: "This is a teaching tool as well as a companion aid for children getting treatment."

Alan worked with teenagers on the APT youth committee to source the toys from America.

It is believed to be the first time that they have been available to children in Ireland and they are given to them free of charge by the charity.

TRAUMA Susan explained Ceejay was diagnosed last September after falling ill with high temperatures. Doctors originally thought he had a virus.

After being sent to Cavan General Hospital for blood tests he was diagnosed with leukaemia and was transferred immediately to Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.

Marcus said: "Ceejay was very traumatised by the hospital experience. Before he got the Freddie (Hickman line) in they would take blood from his foot.

"He was screaming, crying and was upset. He wouldn't take his slippers off and at night-time he would wear slippers in bed."

Susan said that even now "he has to wear socks all the time".

She explained: "The most traumatic part of it all for Ceejay was getting his dressings for his Hickman line. He could cope with other things but that would traumatise him.

"It would break our hearts. He would get it done every Thursday in Drogheda Hospital and the three of us would be crying.

"Then we got Chemo Duck. It has a velcro cover on the Freddie line so the nurses would do Chemo Duck first and then put him on Ceejay's knee.

"He would look after Chemo Duck while he was getting his Freddie cleaned and getting his new blanket, which is what the dressingsare called.

"He was like a different child."

Marcus agreed. He said week by week Ceejay got better at handling the process, adding: "Now when he goes to get his dressings he nearly doesn't need Chemo Duck any more because it has relaxed him so much."

For more intrusive procedures, such as lumbar punctures, the soft toy has been invaluableas well.

Susan said: "They used to have to ring us to come down to the recovery room because Ceejay would be crying so much.

"Generally they don't take parents down but we would always go down to help settle him. However, the last time they didn't ring us because they got Chemo Duck and talked to Chemo Duck and put a blanket around the duck and Ceejay totally came round.

COMFORT "It was the first time they didn't have to ring us."

Marcus believes the duck is helping his son to "verbalise and act out his own fears".

The duck is part of the Gabe's Chemo Duck programme which began in Tennessee in America in 2002 and is named after Gabe, who is now 14 and was treated for cancer when he was a toddler.

His mum, Lu Sipos, altered a cuddly toy for her then one-year-old as he received treatment for a tumour. Now Chemo Duck is used in hospitals in 45 states across America.

Lu said: "We are so honoured that Aoibheann's Pink Tie has stepped in to provide Gabe's Chemo Duck programme to kids in Ireland."

It also comes with an app, two books and a CD.

Jimmy Norman, who set up Aoibheann's Pink Tie in memory of his daughter after she died from cancer nearly four years ago, said: "She would have loved one of these."

news@irishmirror.ie

CAPTION(S):

Brave: Ceejay Brown with Chemo Duck

Coping: Ceejay with his parents Susan and Marcus

Founder: APT's
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Feb 22, 2015
Words:720
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