Introducing the updated cuddly robotic companion that helps comfort children with sickle cell disease


Introducing the updated cuddly robotic companion that helps comfort children with sickle cell disease

Brandpoint (BPT)

(BPT) – Aflac is expanding its My Special Aflac Duck program to offer the cuddly, animatronic companion — which has helped more than 13,000 children deal with the challenges of a cancer diagnosis — to kids with sickle cell disease. Hospitals, medical professionals and certified cancer and blood disorders organizations across the U.S. can now order My Special Aflac Duck, free of charge, for their pediatric patients, ages 3 and over, who are dealing with the harsh treatments often associated with sickle cell disease.

For families like the Guillorys, who were part of a pilot program conducted at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, it has been a powerful tool during a difficult time. Like the parents of one out of every 365 Black children born in America, they learned their son Sawyer was born with sickle cell disease — a painful, difficult and potentially deadly blood disorder that disproportionately affects African American families. “We were devastated,” said Shea Guillory. “I was at a loss for words.”

Children with sickle cell disease require constant hydration and consistent medication. They also contend with extreme susceptibility to cold temperatures. Stress and overexertion cause pain crises that can lead to hospitalization.

“Sickle cell disease, which is a terrible condition that primarily impacts the African American community, does not typically receive the attention that it deserves,” said Aflac Executive Vice President and General Counsel Audrey Boone Tillman. “Seeing the unique challenges that come with this diagnosis, we knew we had to expand the My Special Aflac Duck program to help provide comfort and companionship for the 100,000 Americans — many of whom are children — bravely facing this disease. These families need help, and if Aflac can provide some measure of relief for children with sickle cell, we are ready to take on that mission.”

Created in 2018 for children with pediatric cancer, My Special Aflac Duck and its companion app now also address the specific needs of children living with sickle cell disease, after more than a year of research and development.

For health care professionals, including child life specialists, My Special Aflac Duck helps reinforce care routines for children with sickle cell, including reminders to drink water, stay warm and eat well. For patients, the duck helps provide comfort and companionship when they receive treatments or experience pain crises. Its tailored resources include new physical tools, accessories, digital experiences via the duck’s app and custom packaging with instructions specific to sickle cell patients. Available free of charge, hospitals, medical professionals and certified organizations can order as many My Special Aflac Ducks as needed for their pediatric patients with cancer or sickle cell disease.

The physical and emotional burden — for both adults and children — of living with sickle cell disease is captured in an inspiring short film, “The Park Bench” that Aflac recently released. You can view “The Park Bench” here.

About the Guillory Family

The Guillory family’s care journey began at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It was here that Sawyer received a bone-marrow transplant from his twin brother Saxton. The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorder Center is the largest comprehensive sickle cell center in the U.S., caring for nearly 2,000 pediatric patients each year.

Sawyer’s My Special Aflac Duck, named Daxton after his twin brother, has been a companion at all his appointments, which was especially helpful during the isolating era of the pandemic.

“It is a wonderful tool,” Shea Guillory said. “My Special Aflac Duck gives us a way to talk to Sawyer about his health needs and helps him express his feelings about what he is going through. It has helped our family tremendously.”

To learn more about Aflac’s commitment to children facing sickle cell disease or to order My Special Aflac Duck, visit

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