my special Aflac duck
Andrew Myers for TIME

A Companion for Kids With Cancer

My Special Aflac Duck

Many kids diagnosed with cancer say the hardest part is feeling as if they’ve lost control over their lives. This animatronic duck, which insurance giant Aflac distributes free to pediatric patients, aims to restore it. Among its many features: a companion IV set that allows kids to “treat” the duck with chemotherapy, so they can see how the process works, and “emoji cards” that, when tapped against the duck’s chest, prompt it to act out feelings the child is too scared or confused to express to doctors. This experience is “not just about getting better medically,” says Aaron Horowitz, a designer at health care tech firm Sproutel, which Aflac tapped to spearhead the project after Sproutel launched a similar toy (Jerry the Bear) for kids with diabetes. “It’s about being happy.” —Jamie Ducharme

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