NEW ORLEANS – Aflac, provider of supplemental health insurance products, delivered 50 of its award-winning My Special Aflac Ducks for children with cancer and sickle cell disease at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. The duck delivery event occurred during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
“The My Special Aflac Duck program has done an incredible job providing comfort to children with cancer and to kids with sickle cell disease during a time they need it the most,” said Aflac Louisiana Market Director Eddie Martina II. “At Aflac’s core, we are committed to helping children and their families impacted by these diseases and are grateful to work with our partners in Louisiana to provide this resource free of charge, helping make a difference in the lives of these families.”
The award-winning, social robot uses medical play, lifelike movement and mimics emotions to engage and help comfort kids during their cancer or sickle cell disease journey. It was developed after more than 18 months of research with children, families and health care providers to help children cope with their treatments. Features of My Special Aflac Duck include an interactive mobile app that allows children to virtually bathe and feed their duck, customizable soundscapes that provide soothing visuals and sounds, smart sensors that enable touch and awareness of light and sounds, and a calming heartbeat and breathing vibrations. To help children express themselves, the duck also comes with seven feelings emoji discs that, when tapped to a sensor on the duck’s chest, prompt My Special Aflac Duck to emulate each emotion.
“Care plans for children with cancer or blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease, can involve frequent procedures, clinic or infusion visits, and hospitalizations, which can lead to stress and anxiety for these patients,” said Dana LeBlanc, hematologist/oncologist at Children’s Hospital New Orleans’ Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. “We are grateful for the potential positive impact that this innovative resource offers for our children with sickle cell.”
Aflac, along with Sproutel, debuted My Special Aflac Duck in 2018 as part of its 27-year, $161-plus million commitment to childhood cancer and blood disorders, including sickle cell disease. Since the program’s inception, Aflac has delivered more than 17,000 My Special Aflac Ducks in 450 hospitals and disease-focused organizations, free of charge to patients ages 3 and above.
“We are grateful to Aflac for not only tailoring My Special Aflac Duck to help meet the specific needs of sickle cell patients, but also delivering them to our clients in south Louisiana,” said Erin Fullbright, executive director of Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana. “Sickle cell patients are often forgotten and not given the same resources as other chronic diseases. Knowing our patients suffer just as much and seeing Aflac’s support for the sickle cell community firsthand means everything. Going to the hospital for a pain crisis or even for their monthly visit can be a lot for children. Having their own duck during these tough times will be comforting for the families.”
Recipients at the Louisiana event participated in a My Special Aflac Duck demonstration before beginning an exciting scavenger hunt to meet their very own robotic companion. Following the hunt, patients and their families celebrated the new friendship through various activities like creating a birth certificate and beaded necklace for their duck, coloring and more.
Health care providers, support organizations and families can order My Special Aflac Duck for their children or patients 3 years or older who have been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell disease at https://myduck.sproutel.com/family/request.