Image from Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
ROCHESTER, NY - All the pain medication that is in stock at Strong Memorial Hospital could never do for Blake Cognata what one phone call did on Monday night.
His football hero, Minnesota Vikings' star Adrian Peterson, called him not long after a grass-roots #APCallBlake Twitter campaign had begun.
The immense power of social media awed a Fairport family, thrilled a very ill high school senior, and gave insight into what Peterson is really like as a person.
"It was just the most amazing thing," Blake's mother, Diane Calcagno, said of the call and experience for her son. "He's been glowing all night."
Blake, age 17, is batting a rare form of cancer called Ewing's sarcoma. The disease, diagnosed on Feb. 1, attacks the bones. He was forced to stop playing football and lacrosse at Fairport High School.
With just one treatment remaining on his original chemotherapy regimen, Cognata began to feel pain in his shoulder in October. Doctors found the disease had spread dramatically through his body.
"It's in just about every bone he has," his mother said.
Cognata entered Strong on Saturday night, when the pain had become intense.
Through Twitter, friends and family members were providing support on Monday. They used hashtags such as #staystrongblake and #findyourstrong.
Dylan George, a 2011 Fairport High graduate and sophomore at The College at Brockport, decided to take it one step further. He initiated the #APCallBlake hashtag.
He remembered that just back in December, a similar urging via Twitter -- #TebowCallMatt -- prompted New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow to phone a car accident victim in Albany.
"I was just hoping it would help Blake," said George, who said he knows Cognata through mutual friends.
Within 90 minutes of the start of the #APCallBlake hashtag, around 8 p.m., the National Football League's best running back was phoning Blake in his hospital bed.
"It was on his heart and he just felt he had to do it," Chris Brown, Peterson's assistant, said by phone from Texas. "If a conversation can bring a little bit of joy, it's the least Adrian can do."
The phone call from Peterson was an unexpected yet terrific birthday present. Cognata turns 18 next Monday. His girlfriend, Ellie Heier, and cousin, Ryan Calcagno, both seniors, were in the hospital room and had been tweeting as well. When the cell phone rang, and it said the call was from Oklahoma, Cognata was awestruck.
"Blake answered his phone and he was so cute it was like, 'Helllloooo?'" said his mother, who was obviously only hearing what her son was saying and not the Peterson part of the conversation. "Then he said, 'Can I ask who's calling? For real? Oh, my gosh, I can't believe you called me.'"
Diane Calcagno said Blake and Peterson chatted for about five minutes. "He told Blake not to give up and asked how long he had been sick. Then he told Blake that he had his personal cell number and to call him anytime that he wanted to talk to someone. He's a very spiritual man and talked to Blake about his faith."
Perhaps just 20 minutes earlier, Cognata was in a very deep sleep, induced greatly by pain medication. He also had a 104 fever and had a cold towel on his head, his mother said.
Yet somehow he was wide awake by the time the phone rang.
Somehow he apparently knew, his mother believes.
The Fairport hockey team will use Tuesday's 7:30 p.m. game against Pittsford at Thomas Creek Ice Arena to show support for Cognata. He'll be in his hospital bed at Strong wearing the jersey of Fairport senior Shea Green, his friend and Heier's cousin.
(Copyright 2013 by Gannett Co. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. )