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Fierce Twitter Campaign Inspires 17-Year-Old With Extremely Rare Disorder

People In Jericho, NY & Around World Spreading The Word -- #StandStrongNico

JERICHO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Long Island teen in a fight for his life is getting help 140 characters at a time.

As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Tuesday, classmates have launched an Internet campaign to lift his spirits.

Nico Vigliotti is getting by with a lot of help from his friends. The 17-year old Jericho High School junior is locked in a grueling battle with a disorder called “chromosomal deletion 14.” He is the second child in the world known to have the condition.

When classmates aren’t lifting his spirits in person, they’re doing it through cyberspace.

“I wrote #prayfornico. All my friends from school started tweeting it,” friend Giulia Milana said.

What started as a single tweet, soon took off.

“Within two days we had over a 1,000 tweets. It was so overwhelming to see the inspiration. It gave my son [reason] to keep going,” said Debbie Schaeffer, Nico’s mother.

“It helps me deal with life. It makes a huge, huge difference,” Nico said.

Nico was born with a rare chromosomal disorder that cripples his lungs. He’s grown up on oxygen tanks, feeding tubes and wheelchairs. Doctors told his mother he wouldn’t live.

“Literally any minute. It wasn’t even by the day, it was by the minute,” Schaeffer said.

Surgery was recently needed to rebuild his feet and legs after lack of oxygen caused them to collapse. And talking is a chore.

“I’ve been in serious, major pain — every day and night. Every second of the day,” Nico said.

The pain has been made more bearable, Nico said, by a flood of Twitter messages from around the world — from celebrities and sports stars.

“You always hear about social media being related to negative things like bullying and suicide, but it’s been a miracle how one little tweet — 30 seconds out of a person’s day — made a boy incredibly happy,” Schaeffer said.

“Social media can be used to help heal a child’s heart.”

Nico recently took his first post-surgical steps to show classmates the power of their friendship.  He dreams about returning to high school soon and then moving on to college. It’s why his friends have started a new hash tag — #standstrongnico.

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