As one Rhode Island family endured the fight of a lifetime, they received support from an unexpected place: the director of Finding Dory.
When Maureen Azize welcomed her baby boy 17 weeks early, doctors gave the tiny infant a 15 percent chance of survival. At the time, Francis William Azize only weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces, and his parents and doctors fought for his life over the course of 118 days in the NICU.
"It was a lot of ups and downs," Maureen told ABC. "They say it's a roller coaster, and it definitely is. Some days it derails, but he received a lot of prayers and a lot of love from everyone and he is thriving. The staff, nurses, doctors — they're such unique people on the front lines of fragile lives."
In an attempt to add warmth to Francis's sterile hospital room, Maureen's sister drew a Finding Nemo design on his dry erase board. Around the same time, Maureen's brother, Charles, sent her a video of Andrew Stanton, the director of both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory, speaking during a Ted Talk conference.
"When I was born, I was born premature — that I came out much too early and I wasn't fully baked," Stanton shared in the speech. "I was very, very sick and when the doctor took a look at this yellow kid with black teeth he looked straight at my mom and said, 'He's not going to live.'"
The new mom took immense comfort in the knowledge that this accomplished man also got his start in life by living in a hospital for months, yet he was still able to achieve his dreams in life. "Whatever I ended up being good at, I would strive to be worthy of the second chance I was given," he added.
In a twist of fate, Charles was seated next to Andrew on a flight while Francis was still fighting for his life in the NICU. Check out the emotional video created by his family to see what happened next and how far this amazing little boy has managed to keep swimming!