Love, Care, Compassion — And a Career Shift

Mar 6, 2024 2:50 PM ET
Campaign: Aflac Stories
O’Shea Guillory shown with children at the Aflac Cancer Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.

Originally published on Aflac Newsroom

When O’Shea Guillory stepped off the elevator at the Egleston campus of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, it was the first time she connected Aflac with her son’s battle against sickle cell disease.

“The butterfly-adorned elevator doors opened to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, and there was a portrait of long-time Aflac Chairman, CEO and President Dan Amos smiling back at me,” O’Shea recalled.

The miraculous story of O’Shea’s twin sons — Sawyer, who was diagnosed with the most common and severe form of sickle cell, hemoglobin SS, and Saxton who was a perfect match for his brother’s lifesaving bone marrow transplant — has touched many.

The journey with an underrepresented disease 

When Sawyer was diagnosed, O’Shea asked the doctor, “Where would you take your child if you were in our position?” The response was Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). The Guillory family cancelled their plans to move from Brunswick, Georgia, to Texas and instead relocated to the Atlanta area.

Through grueling treatments that often required complete isolation, the Guillory family relied on the support and medical expertise found at CHOA and the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Additionally, Sawyer and Saxton found comfort in My Special Aflac Ducks®. In fact, the family served as advisors as the company adapted its robotic, comforting companion — originally designed for children with cancer — so it could also be used for children with sickle cell.

According to the CDC, sickle cell is a common disease affecting approximately 100,000 Americans and occurring in about 1 in every 365 Black or African American births.1

“I am proud to say Aflac is helping close the gap for sickle cell,” said Buffy Swinehart, senior manager, Corporate Social Responsibility. “In addition to the financial support we’ve given to this underfunded disease through the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, which treats more children with sickle cell than anywhere else in the country,2 we are helping to educate and drive awareness of the disease. As part of Aflac’s continued investment in the My Special Aflac Duck program, we are doubling down on our commitment to families like the Guillorys.”

“The amount of care, love and compassion our family received at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center was life-changing,” said O’Shea. “My son was cured, and I knew I wanted to do whatever I could to give back.”

And she did just that, starting with a fundraiser for Sawyer’s birthday, where O’Shea raised $5,000. She still wanted to do more, so she connected with Aflac, and her life began to pivot.

Joining the Aflac flock

“I worked in technology for years and was very happy with my job and career, but I wanted to put my skills to use in the area that tugged at my heart,” said O’Shea. “I knew there were other families going through the same thing we experienced, and I prayed for them to be okay mentally and physically. I didn’t want them to have to worry about financial burdens.”

O’Shea wrote down her vision and plan to offer her skillset to CHOA and Aflac and, in 2021, was invited to attend Aflac’s annual meeting of leading sales agents and brokers. Her goal was to get in front of Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos, tell him how Aflac had touched her heart and explain some product ideas she thought the company should create that would help families facing diseases like sickle cell.

As she waited to be taken backstage, she heard a big voice coming from the podium. She peeked inside the conference room doors, and it was then Aflac U.S. President Teresa White going over successful sales numbers and other accomplishments from the year. Serendipitously, O’Shea was ushered backstage as Teresa was coming off the stage.

“Meeting her was such a magical moment. I told her what an honor it was, and she spoke life into me,” said O’Shea. “She gave me the courage to speak up, state my case and apply for a position at the company. And that’s what I did.”

O’Shea joined Aflac in 2023 and today, she is an Associate Product Manager for Aflac, where she uses her talents and experience to develop group products that will directly help the families who need it most.

“I am so happy to officially be an Aflac employee. It’s been almost a full year now, but I knew on day one that this is where I am supposed to be,” said O’Shea. “I am so excited for the future. Sawyer has been cured, both my sons are healthy, and I work for a company that does all it can to help others without even being asked.”

Now, when O’Shea steps off an elevator and sees Dan Amos’s smiling face, it’s because she is at Aflac headquarters, following her heart and working hard to help families like her own.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Data & Statistics on Sickle Cell Disease.” Accessed on Feb. 1, 2024.

2Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, “About Our Sickle Cell Disease Program.” Accessed on Feb. 23, 2024.

Coverage is underwritten by Aflac. In New York, coverage is underwritten by Aflac New York.

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