Meet Itzy Cagen.
With that brief message in mind, Eran Melnik took to the Facebook fan page of Houston Texan defensive end JJ Watt:
I am a nurse here in Houston and this is a picture of my patient… I have been his nurse for four years now and I don’t think there is a bigger Texans fan out there. During the season, every morning I would wake him up and he would announce “J. J. SWATT!!!”. Just thought you would like to know that he is out there and would love to meet you if at all possible. We understand that you are busy, but who knows? Send me a message if anything comes up….
Immediately, Itzy’s friends created a social media storm around the effort. “Let’s make this viral,” a buddy exclaimed. “If anyone is on Twitter, let’s tweet this one out….” brainstormed another.
Within seconds, comedy writer Jenny Johnson shared the photo in a tweet to more than 300,000 of her followers. Dozens of others followed suit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. “You never know…” wrote Kids of Courage, a volunteer based non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children and young adults with serious medical diagnoses, when sharing it with 5,000 Facebook fans.
After 103 days, nearly 1,500 Likes and more than 270 shares, the photo was seen by the NFL superstar. “We will make this happen,” Watt commented.
Itzy, otherwise known as Coach K by fellow Couragers, replied, “That’s amazing.”
What was unique about Itzy’s message was that it was sent using his head, the only portion of his body that he is able to move at free will. Equipped with a special device attached to his forehead, Itzy carefully pecked each letter. The boy, a victim of a tragic accident at the age of two more than 20 years ago, is confined to his wheelchair, and lacks the ability to eat, sleep and move around without relying on the help of another person or machine.
Itzy is the longest surviving quadriplegic in the world.
On May 21st, 111 days after Melnik posted the photo, the wait was over. Itzy Cagen and JJ Watt met for the first time.
Itzy’s smile was said to be wider than Watt’s frame.
Later that night, Melnik took to Facebook once again:
Thank you so much, JJ Watt, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to make Itzy extremely happy! It was great to meet a superstar who honestly is a genuinely good person. Gives me faith in humanity to know that someone with his status can be so generous and giving.
“He is my hero,” Itzy wrote referring to Watt.
Something tells us Watt feels the same way about Itzy.
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) May 21, 2013