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Reddit users send thousands of letters to help a terminally ill man through his final days

Courtesy Sean O'Connor

(CBS News) Thanks to the notes of encouragements and gifts from hundreds of Internet users, Scott Widak's final days are a bit brighter.

PICTURES: Reddit users send terminally ill man thousands of letters

Widak, a 47-year-old artist with down syndrome, was diagnosed with sclerosis of the liver, a terminal disease. Unlike most cases that result from years of heavy drinking, Widak's disease seems to be a genetic abnormality.

Widak's nephew, Sean O'Connor, wanted to make his uncle feel better in his final days so he decided to appeal to Reddit users to send mail. Hundreds of letters and gifts have poured in including masks of Randy "Macho Man" Savage - Widak's favorite wrestler - and Johnny Cash CDs - one of Widak's favorite musicians.

"He gets tons of joy opening Comcast bills or phone bills," O'Connor told HealthPop. "He loves to do it with my grandmother using the letter opener."

After being hospitalized for two weeks in March, Widak's family made the decision to take him home and do in-home hospice care. The artist was transferred to his mother's house, and the family transformed the living room into a makeshift hospital room. O'Connor said that despite the big family supporting Widak, times can still be tough.

"We feel like we're coping well and supportive, but there's still some challenging elements," O'Connor said.

So, O'Connor, who has used Reddit for the last five years, posted this note with a P.O. box set up for Widak: "Hey Reddit - my 47 year old uncle, Scott Widak, has down syndrome and is terminally ill with liver disease. He is currently bedridden and living out his last days at home with my 85 year old grandmother. One of his favorite things to do is open mail...anyone feel like sending him a letter or card?"

Later his post would shoot to top of Reddit, with many people asking questions about Widak's favorite things so they could personalize packages. While the address was eventually pulled down for privacy reasons, people still found ways to get the mail to him by sharing the address online.

Unfortunately, Widak isn't doing that well right now, O'Connor explained. He hasn't been able to get out of bed for the past week. But, the letters are still pouring in. O'Connor just picked up a box from the post office, which included a package which contained gift cards for Target and Amazon.

"He doesn't have the energy to open the mail right now," said O'Connor. "For the last week now we open mail, but when we asks about it, we go to a box and read him letters."

"There's over a 1000 (letters)!" O'Connor continued. "He's only seen a few of those, but he's still looking at it and getting it."

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