How ‘Finding Nemo’ creator unexpectedly inspired family of preemie

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Francis William was born four months premature, weighing a mere one pound, nine ounces. In a video posted to their Facebook page, his parents shared the boy’s story and their surprising source of encouragement— the creator of “Finding Nemo.”

“He was the sickest baby on the floor, in the unit,” dad Jeffrey Azize says in the video.

The numbers were all against the boy, a doctor at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island, told Jeffrey, and he had a 15 percent chance of survival after his birth on January 13, 2015.

A nurse gave Jeffrey and his wife, Maureen, a set of markers so the Rhode Island couple could decorate the whiteboard in their son’s hospital room and Maureen’s sister drew characters from the movie “Finding Nemo.”

Shortly after, Maureen’s brother, Charles Kinnane, sent a video to the family from the 2012 Ted Talk conference, ABC News reported. As they watched, the couple realized the speaker, Andrew Stanton, was the Oscar-winning director and writer of “Finding Nemo.”

At the end of his speech, Stanton shared that he was a premature baby and his mother was told he was not going to live.

“Whatever I ended up being good at, I would strive to be worthy of that second chance I was given,” Stanton said in the video.

A month later, Kinnane called the couple and told them he’d just sat next to Stanton on a flight from LAX to Oakland, ABC News reported.

“I said, ‘Mr. Stanton, I don’t want to bother you, but my sister and brother-in-law have a son that’s in the NICU and your TED Talk really inspired us,” Kinnane, who lives in the San Francisco Bay area, told ABC News. “I showed him some photos [of Francis] and he couldn’t have been nicer. After seeing some photos he said, ‘Us preemies need to stick together.”

Stanton gave Kinnane a signed note for his nephew, with a drawing of Nemo that read, “To Francis William, Just Keep Swimming. –Andrew Stanton.” “Just keep swimming” is the signature line of the character Dory.

118 days after he was born, Francis William went home. In correspondance with, the Azizes added a thank you to the NICU staff at Women & Infants Hospital and to the Ronald McDonald House.

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"They are both organizations that had a huge impact on our journey and would love to give them a little shout out," the family told

In a video posted June 17, the Azizes shared their son’s story. It’s been viewed 14 million times and liked by 137,000 viewers.

“Just keep swimming, that’s what Francis did,” Maureen said in the video. “He kept swimming through the NICU and he continues to just keep swimming and thriving. We wanted to give him a chance.”