Jake Vella is an exceptional kid who competes in triathlons. While that in itself is amazing, considering he is just 8 years old, what makes it more incredible is that fact that Jake is fighting an incurable disease.
ROHHAD – rapid onset hypothalamic dysregulation, hypoventilation, and autonomic dysregulation is a very rare and life threatening illness, which affects the nervous system. The life span is typically between five and nine years.
The disease manifests itself by excess weight gain. No matter how healthy a lifestyle, or how active the sufferer is, they will always gain weight. Mum, Maruska says that triathlons keep Jake healthy, and help him to socialise with others.
Although Jake leads a relatively normal life, playing the drums and going to school, his mom says they are always careful in case he catches a cold, as the complications may be fatal for him.
“Triathlons help Jake to keep fit and active. It’s good for his health and also gives him a chance to socialise with other kids,” says his mother.
“He leads a normal life, goes to school, plays the drums, but he has to be very careful not to get sick. We are frightened that a simple flu could lead to other complications.”
“He trains with the Malta Youth Triathlon Association three times a week, and it really is like a second family to him.”
The Malta Youth Triathlon Association is like a family to Jake as he trains with them three times a week. Matt Azzopardi, Jake’s trainer, says that the lad is extremely motivated and always up for a challenge. Even when training they must watch that Jake’s heart rate does not increase too rapidly.
“He is extremely positive and motivated and easily the most dedicated. He never misses a training session without valid reason and is constantly eager to train,” says Matt.
“Jake is very lovable and steals the heart of all who know him. It is sad and heartbreaking to see what he has to go through.”
Matt says he has a mixture of sympathy and admiration for the family, and thinks that Jake is an inspiration to them all.
“I look at his family with a mixture of sympathy and admiration – despite the hardship they do their utmost to ensure that Jake gets as normal a life as possible,” he added.
“Jake was always included in the group and followed the same training and adapted as and when the need arises,” Matt continues. “I always tell him not to change, to keep going and to do his best. He is an inspiration for so many.”
Jake says he wants to follow in the footsteps of the Brownlee Brothers.