Featured photo: Angie Conti
At just seven years old, Jake Vella runs triathlons across Malta. He also battles one of the rarest conditions in the world.
Jake has ROHHAD, which means no matter how much he exercises or diets, he keeps gaining weight.
There are only 75 known cases of this condition globally, but Jake isn’t going to let that get in his way.
He loves being active and keeping fit, and despite the odds being stacked against him, Jake follows in his father’s footsteps and trains for triathlons.
Jake’s mother told us that his biggest dream is to meet Alistair and Johnny Brownlee, the triathlon-running brothers from England. The pair shot to fame after one of them gave up the chance to win the race to help his injured brother cross the finish line.
Reaching out to them, Jake’s mother said the athletes were touched by his story, and sent him a t-shirt from a winning race.
Unfortunately, because of his condition, Jake is not able to travel and meet them.
Jake grew up a healthy and happy child, but at the age of five something changed. He gained 10 kilos in just six months, and his parents said they knew something was wrong when he kept putting on weight despite eating only salads.
“One day, I found this story of a girl who suffered from an extremely rare condition called ROHHAD, and as I read more about it, I got a sinking feeling that Jake was suffering from the earliest symptoms of the exact same thing.”
As things stand, the future is uncertain for the Vella family, as no one with ROHHAD has been known to live past their twenties. Still Marouska and Josie Vella believe that keeping Jake active might just be saving him.
“We live life day-by-day, and try to as much as possible make sure that he leads a normal life.”