How The Director Of 'Finding Dory' Inspired These Preemie Parents To Stay Strong

"Just keep swimming."

Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton is instilling hope in the parents of a premature baby in Rhode Island.

Francis William Azize weighed 1 pound 9 ounces when he was born 17 weeks early in January 2015. Although his parents were initially told that he had a 15 percent chance of survival, after 118 days at a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), his parents were finally able to take him home.

"Developmentally, he's right on track of where we want him to be," his mom, Maureen Azize, told ABC News. "He's currently in the process of wanting to walk. He's not there yet, but he wants to be. I think one of the doctors said, 'You have to have spunk to be born at 23 weeks,' and I think that described him very well... he's just a real little gift."

One thing that has helped Francis' parents stay strong is Stanton's 2012 TED Talk. In the speech, Stanton revealed that he was born prematurely but survived due to the love and support of his parents.

Coincidentally, Azize's brother Charles sat next to Stanton on a flight from LAX to Oakland last year. After Charles told the director about Francis' story, Stanton penned a note for him.

"Just keep swimming," the note read — a reference to a line in Finding Nemo.

The World Health Organization says that about 15 million babies are born prematurely every year. Caring for an infant that was born early does have its challenges, but support from other parents can make a big difference on an emotional level.

Francis' parents were so moved by Stanton's kind note that they edited a video combining Stanton's TED Talk speech with footage of their baby's journey through the NICU. The video was called "Just Keep Swimming" and it has been shared on Facebook over 134,000 times since Friday.


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